(CNN) -- Tours of duty for members of the U.S. Army serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have been extended from 12 months to 15 months effective immediately, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.
"What we're trying to do here is provide some long-term predictability to our soldiers and their families," Gates told reporters at the Pentagon.
The new policy will give all units a year at home between deployments. CNN.com asked readers what they thought about the decision, as well as its impact on the country and the troops and their loved ones. Below is a selection of the responses, some of which have been edited:
Dolly Perry of Cheney, Washington
It is with a heavy heart that I hear the news of extended deployments. As a military wife I have spent a lot of time with my husband in foreign countries. I know personally the heartache a family feels when their husband/son/father is gone. That time will never be regained. A child only learns to walk or talk during a small period of time. Those memories can be described, but the true knowledge and experience is lost to those far away from home. As a mother to four I have experienced the pain of children racked with sobs crying for their father. I learned tools to comfort and help my children cope with their pain and anger as I learned to cope with all of my feelings.
All of this said, I feel pride that my husband has served valiantly with the Air Force for more than 20 years. I feel proud that I love such a man who would defend his beliefs and country and sacrifice so much to be available to be of use to his country. Would I do it again? Well, I'm ashamed to say that I might grumble ... But yes! I would be my soldier's home base again!
Barbara Cash of Chicago, Illinois
As a citizen and as a parent, I have never been so angry at my government as I am about what we are doing to our young men and women. They fight for an ideal unknown in Iraq, but more importantly, unwanted. They die for people and a country where they are unwanted. They serve for lengths of time that are constantly changed and extended, and then are recalled multiple times, leading directly to the mistreatment of prisoners and mental breakdowns, for which they cannot even get proper treatment here in their own country.
Our leaders will not call for a draft, because they know that this country will not accept a draft when our country is not threatened. Iraq will never be a democratic country, no matter how many of our children die over there. We started a war against a country that had done nothing to us, based on deliberate lies and with no plan for what to do after the fighting stopped. Oh, that's right, the fighting has not stopped and it never will, as long as our children are over there. For this, our children are dying.
We need to impeach a president for violating us, not for having consensual relationships outside of marriage. (Oh Newt, America is calling.) In this election, people don't want to talk about personal issues, and I am sure that everyone knows why. Because we are governed by a bunch of hypocrites.
L. Miller in Diyala, Iraq
Currently, I am an Army officer serving my second tour of duty in Iraq. I fought in Falluja in 2004. I protected Iraqi voters during the first elections in 2005. I'm currently slugging it out with insurgents and terrorists in the violent Diyala province. My soldiers and I have seen and been witness to things that no one should ever have to see and have lived through events that keep me up nights. Like most combat arms officers here, I live with the fact that many of my soldiers have not survived the battles we have fought, yet we survivors continue to soldier on. To learn of my unit's extension by watching the news is an insult. Many commanders and leaders throughout the Army, including myself, only learned of this extension after their own subordinates saw a press conference on TV and questioned them about it. Informing soldiers this way is a disrespectful act and angers me, many of my soldiers, and many of their family members.
While my own soldiers informing me of the inevitable extension of tours of duty disappoints and angers me, the fact that an already arduous yearlong tour is being extended absolutely infuriates me. Do leaders have absolutely no respect for soldiers and their families or is the Army this broken? I'm sure reality lies somewhere in between. As for myself, I am tired. I'm tired of this war. I'm tired of seeing my soldiers die. I'm tired of never being home. I'm tired of having no answer when my soldiers ask me if we're really defending our nation. I'm tired of not seeing my newborn son or my wife. I'm tired of not being home for Christmas. Because I am so tired of these things, I will tender my resignation when I return home ... whenever that is. I'm pretty sure I won't be the only one.
Kaitlyn Colburn of Milford, New Hampshire
My fiancee is already missing our first baby, who will be born in August. We had a planned wedding for when he comes home [for mid-tour leave] in August and now [with the mid-tour leave date changing] we don't know what's going to happen. Many people in the government do not understand that the extra money means nothing to us. You cannot put a price on a human life and you cannot imagine what families go through every single day while their soldier is gone. The extension is ridiculous and is ruining a lot of families. We should not even be in Afghanistan in the first place. When my fiancee comes home, our son will be almost a year old. A lot happens in a year and he will miss it all, and we can never get those things back. Why can't the Marines make their tours longer? Seven-month tours? Are you kidding? Why is active duty being extended to 15 months and the Marines still have half of what we have to go through? They come home for good when our soldiers are coming home for their mid-tour leaves. This is just not fair. The heartache this decision has put on families is indescribable.
Tricia Hoyt of Louisville, Kentucky
With today's bombing in the "secure Green Zone," I am at a loss as to why we are still planning to extend our service in Iraq. Here is a space that you are reporting as impenetrable by unauthorized people. CNN is reporting surprise and bewilderment that this area was breached. This war was begun by President Bush under the basic promise of "world peace." We would be safe if we took down Saddam [Hussein] and destroyed his weapons of mass destruction. I found that promise to be ridiculous then because evil exists and bad things happen to good people, period. It is something that we need to protect ourselves from and prepare for, but as the saying goes, "Where there is a will, there is a way." If someone wants to hurt us, they will. We should focus our efforts on peacekeeping and preventive missions rather than justifying someone else's mantra of evil.
Thom Moriarty of Virginia Beach, Virginia
I can only hope that the American people -- especially our elected representatives -- truly appreciate what is being asked of the men and women in uniform who are fighting this war on our behalf. An extra three months may not seem like much, but, as a retired active-duty service member who has deployed, I can tell you that it has a significant impact not only on the service member but on their family as well. This is especially true for those who are on or are about to begin a subsequent combat tour. Each and every American owes these brave young men and women our full support while they are on the field of combat and afterward when they return home -- especially those who come home with life-altering injuries. This is our duty as citizens and we must not fail in our promise to do it. Freedom isn't free!
Jennifer Howell of Fort Campbell, Kentucky
I am an active-duty Army wife with a deployed husband and I'm fed up and disgusted with this entire thing, not to mention this administration. Why does just the active-duty Army have to carry the extra burden? It's absolutely unfair and that extra $1,000 each month comes up to $1.38 an hour. You think that's fair? It all stinks to high heaven. Bring them all home now! The Democrats were elected for a reason.
Horace Hill of San Antonio, Texas
This is an issue only because CNN chooses to make it an issue for a political purpose. Check with veterans from past combat situations and you will find that a large majority of us were extended. Many, like myself, for the duration of the war or as long as you were needed to protect the peace, and some for a designated time period. You understand that this can happen the day you enter the military. My time in Korea was due to end August 1952 and my discharge date was September 1953. I was extended and came home March 1956 and was discharged in April 1956. Did we like it? No, we didn't, but we understood why it was necessary. I know this is a well-worn cliché, but many do not understand that "Freedom is not free." Never has been, never will be. Someone will always have to pay a price when others choose not to.
Cathy Cott of Tahlequah, Oklahoma
The powers that be in the military say this now, but down the road the "policy" will be changed. When they need troops and no one is enlisting anymore because they've jerked them around so much in the past, they'll proceed to jerk them around some more and keep them there as long as they like and then send them back as fast as they can. It's all a matter of changing policy to suit their needs. They don't view those soldiers, sailors, airmen or marines as human beings. They are nothing more than chess pieces in an actual life-or-death game they are playing. They are not to be trusted and their promises aren't worth a thing.
Ken Prescott of Cincinnati, Ohio
Extending troops in a combat zone is wrong. The rotation times for combat zones were set up to prevent troop burnout and have a date to look forward to when they will be home. Between the stress, fatigue and now low morale, troops will begin to make more mistakes. When this happens, the insurgents will take advantage of the situation and casualty rates will begin to go up. Casualty rates are always lowest when troops are fresh.
Wayne Yost of Macon, Georgia
Hey, it is an all-volunteer military. They are doing what they want to do. I am happy for them to be able to extend their tour! I wish I could do what I wanted to do.
Tim Bovard of Indianapolis, Indiana
As a Vietnam combat vet, the only thing that kept us sane was the fact that when your 12-month tour was over, you would never worry about being shot at again! The troops do not have that comfort now. The pressure, both mental and financial, must be terrible. We had the heat, snipers, no showers and sometimes no drinkable water, but we knew the date it would all end. God bless our troops!
Robert Vincent of Green Cove Springs, Florida
Yes, this will have an effect on my friends overseas. But the way Congress is treating the solders and Marines is remarkable. They need funding and it is stupid to think that winning a war like this one only would take five or six years. We must be there to provide stability throughout this region of the world. I know the fighting has been there for more than 1,000 years, but we are the ones who have the means to put an end to this conflict. If the United States turns its back on these people, that leaves no choice but to allow the criminals of al Qaeda to run this country.
Mike Huffman of Maryville, Tennessee
I believe it's time to activate the draft system. Twelve months of duty is enough. And only one tour every five years should be enough also. It's time for everyone to get involved, male and female. Let's get this war on and over with already.
Kathleen Royer of Overland Park, Kansas
Why are we conducting an overseas war with a peacetime army? If Mr. Bush truly wants to prosecute an overseas war, he should put the nation on a wartime footing instead of making the men and women of the armed forces pay the price for his arrogance.
Jessica George of Baltimore, Maryland
I am really, really sick about this, and am glad you have this forum. I can't begin to express how upsetting this is to me that this president continually uses our soldiers over and over. The whole war is a total lie, mess, fiasco. However you try to describe it. This president got us into this and can't figure out how to get out. But to continually use our troops like this is disgusting. Our National Guard is to be commended and is beyond brave, but its members were never trained to get into a "civil war."
I think we really need to look at the whole troop situation, and unfortunately because our leaders are refusing to reason or look for alternative solutions, there may need to be a draft. I hate to say that, but to keep up this way is not the answer. Really, I think it might be a good idea to draft all of Congress. I'm serious. See how quickly things would change.
Charles Leon of Fayetteville, North Carolina
It seems that the government cares more about the Iraqi people than our own families. It's unfortunate that soldiers have to return home to see how their own kids won't recognize them. Has anyone thought of a study that focuses on how this affects the soldiers and their families? On top of everything, they tell you they will give you $3,000 extra dollars, like our lives and our families are worth a dollar value.
Linda Kemp of Riverview, Florida
Simply put, our armed forces are stretched to the limits. Looks like the draft will have to be instilled. But of course, Congress would not approve of sending their own sons and daughters to war. We need to keep in mind to keep the home front safe and if we are this stretched by numbers, who will protect us?
Dave Jones of Ewing, Virginia
This is another example of poor planning and mismanagement by the Bush administration. It's like having to take out a second loan halfway thought a construction project. Bush did not take time to do the math.