Military families across the nation ... make enormous sacrifices when their loved ones are deployed for active duty.

Those hardships have been compounded in recent years by the Defense Department's unfair and unpopular "stop-loss" policy, which has forced thousands of soldiers to remain in the military after their enlistment period.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates recognizes the toll of stop-loss, and he said the department will phase it out over the next two years. That's welcome news ...

The policy has not only hurt military morale. Pentagon officials also said it likely deterred many prospects from enlisting in the first place and pushed some reserve and National Guard soldiers to leave the Army because of extended tours. Officials also hope the move will help lower a high rate of suicide and divorce among military personnel.

The change will require the military to do better meeting recruitment goals. If troop shortages become an issue, the Pentagon must be prepared to offer better incentives for potential recruits to enlist and for currently enlisted soldiers to remain. ...