“I knew when I married Jack that our life wouldn’t be easy,” said Maureen, 34, whose husband of 15 years is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. “Still, I accepted the fact that we’d have to move a lot and that he might go to war. This became a virtual certainty after 9/11. Back then, Jack was an operations officer for a combat battalion in Germany, and we assumed he would go to Afghanistan. Instead, in April 2003, a month after the Iraq war began, Jack’s unit was sent to Baghdad. I stayed in Germany, where I had good friends.
“After finishing his 14-month deployment, Jack was assigned to a desk job at an Army base in Virginia. We’ve been here five months, and my husband is a changed man. The fun-loving, upbeat guy I married is now dark, defensive, and short-tempered. He scolds fast-food workers, swears at other drivers, and picks fights with me. He has started smoking again, has lost his sex drive, and is constantly telling me he needs ‘space.’ I feel like I’ve lost my best friend.”
“I met Jack in 1989, when I was a senior in high school. I went to a fraternity party with my friend Meg, who was a freshman at a local college in our South Carolina town. In a room filled with hippie types in unwashed jeans, Jack stood out in his blue oxford shirt, pressed khakis, and loafers. His black hair was cut military short, and he carried himself with confidence. Meg introduced us, and we spent the rest of the party talking. A senior in the Army ROTC, Jack was smart, friendly, and courteous — the perfect Southern gentleman, with a soft drawl that exuded charm and sophistication. I really liked him but assumed his age — he was 22 to my 18 — put him out of my league. I said goodbye and told Meg to give him my phone number if he wanted it. He called three days later.
“We were a couple from our first date. After Jack graduated that spring, he reported for active duty in Georgia. I started community college, and we maintained our relationship through phone calls, letters, and occasional visits. Soon we were discussing marriage. Jack was up-front about the stresses of Army life: We would have to relocate often and he would be stationed overseas on a “hardship tour” for at least a year without me. But we were deeply in love, and I liked the idea of living in different places. Jack and I got married 18 months after we met. He was 23; I was 19.
“Three months after the wedding, my father died of a massive heart attack. The loss staggered me. My dad and I had always had a good relationship, but I was consumed with regret over not having told him just how much I loved him. Jack listened to my venting for a few weeks, then copped a ‘get over it’ attitude. Eventually, I worked through my grief and our marriage proceeded smoothly. We lived on the base, socialized with other military couples, and enjoyed hiking and camping.”