Army Wives: The Unwritten Code of Military Marriage

Army Wives: The Unwritten Code of Military Marriage

by Tanya Biank
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Overview

Army Wives: The Unwritten Code of Military Marriage by Tanya Biank

Army Wives goes beyond the sound bites and photo ops of military life to bring readers into the hearts and homes of today's military wives.

Biank tells the story of four typical Army wives who, in a flash, find themselves in extraordinary circumstances that ultimately force them to redefine who they are as women and wives. This is a true story about what happened when real life collided with army convention.

Army Wives is a groundbreaking narrative that takes the reader beyond the Army's gates, taking a close look at the other woman—the Army itself—and how its traditions, rules and war-time realities deeply impact marriage and home life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429993371
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 05/29/2007
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 579,846
File size: 352 KB

About the Author

TANYA BIANK is a Fulbright scholar, journalist and syndicated columnist. She is a contributing writer to several military-related publications and is a frequent guest speaker. The book is the basis for Lifetime TV's hit show Army Wives.
The daughter of a career Army officer, Tanya lives in Virginia with her husband, an Army officer assigned to the Pentagon.


Tanya Biank is a Fulbright scholar, journalist and syndicated columnist. She is a contributing writer to several military-related publications and is a frequent guest speaker. Her book Army Wives was the basis for Lifetime TV's hit show.  The daughter of a career Army officer, Tanya lives in Virginia with her husband, an Army officer assigned to the Pentagon.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Christmas 2000 had been a slower news cycle — but not so slow that I didn't have to cover the cop beat well after eleven on a Sunday evening the week before the holiday. As I parked my car and ran into an adjacent parking lot, I sank deeper into my coat.

"Hi, excuse me, I'm with the Fayetteville Observer. Is it a man?" I yelled out to a group of policemen walking toward me with yellow crime-scene tape.

"Yeah," an officer cop answered back, as he went to cordon off the business office parking lot. It was so cold and so quiet. Who would be around here on a Sunday night? It was an odd place for a random shooting, I thought. The weekend cop beat was a rotating duty all the reporters shared and most, like myself, dreaded. The paper had been getting ready to go to press, and I was about to go home, when news of someone being shot multiple times buzzed across the scanner.

"Just confirm it's a man and find out if he's dead," the weekend editor, Steve Coffman, had called out to me as I headed to the door. "And get back here as soon as you can."

I had arrived in time to see medical personnel load a body into the back of an ambulance.

"Just one more question, and I'll leave you alone. Is he dead?" The policeman didn't answer. I knew I was like a cockroach to this guy, feeding off any morsel of information I could get.

"Please, that's all I need. I'm not asking for a name, and I swear I'll leave. Please help me, I'm on deadline. Is he dead?"

"Yes," the cop said, a little amused at my desperation. I didn't care. I'd take an amused cop over a derisive one any day, and I'd gotten what I needed.

"Thank you so much."

"Yeah. Merry Christmas."

And with that I dashed back to the newsroom. Like most of the reporters at the paper, I hated being a weekend ambulance chaser, covering fires, murders, and car wreck fatalities, and in the summer, drownings, but there never seemed to be a shortage of those things in Fayetteville, especially around the holidays.

"He's dead," I yelled, running back into the newsroom.

"Good. You've got literally three minutes, Tanya, and then I need it. Just a graph." A follow-up story the next day would give more details. The dead man turned out to be a thirty-two-year-old Air Force pilot named Marty Theer, stationed at nearby Pope Air Force Base. He had been shot multiple times by his wife's lover, Army Staff Sergeant John Diamond, who was convicted of murder at a court-martial in August 2001. A civilian jury convicted Captain Theer's wife, Michelle, for his murder and conspiracy to commit murder in December 2004. Both are serving life sentences.

It had been a bloody Sunday. That afternoon I had walked across a yard littered with beer bottles and tried to peer into a rusty trailer with broken windows, some boarded up with plywood. A man had been shot dead inside, with a bullet to the head, as he napped on the living room couch. His fourteen-year-old son was already a suspect.

I finally got home around midnight, glad that my run as "cops girl" had ended. Most Decembers were quiet times for Army news. Soldiers were on "halfdays," an annual truncated schedule that allows them time off they miss out on much of the year. For me half-days meant it was difficult to get in touch with people or set up stories, and as far as training there wasn't much of that going on — until the world came unhinged nine months later. In December 2000 the attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers would have seemed like an outlandish plot in a Christmas blockbuster release, and most Americans couldn't pronounce Osama bin Laden. Terrorism, anthrax, jihad, and weapons of mass destruction were not yet part of the everyday vocabulary.

A month later eight hundred Bragg soldiers would deploy for a six-month tour to Kosovo as "peacekeepers," but for the most part this Christmas was a time when the Army spent its days training for war rather than going to war. Some soldiers were able to take leave. For those who stayed at Bragg, there were lots of holiday festivities and parties, including battalion Christmas buffets at which one of the soldiers always dressed up like Santa with a sack full of presents for the kids. Andrea Lynne Cory, wife of Lieutenant Colonel Rennie Cory, had planned her own big party, despite her husband's initial reservations.

Under a crescent moon and dark night sky, the Corys' Fort Bragg quarters at 11 South Dupont Plaza radiated with twinkling lights and candles, and their three Fraser fir trees were lavishly decorated with ornaments collected during twenty years of marriage. Garlands of greenery and handmade Victorian lace adorned the mantelpiece and windowsills. It was four days after Christmas 2000, and Andrea Lynne steadily carried a carnival green punch bowl filled with spiked eggnog from the maid's room through the kitchen, where a huge vat of glühwein, mulled red wine, was simmering on the stove. Both were popular drinks with the ladies. Andrea Lynne used the maid's quarters — an anachronism from the days when officers' families had hired help — as a keeping room for extra dishes and kitchen sundries.

Outside, guests strolled up the sidewalk and passed a wrought-iron lamp holding a Plexiglas nameplate that announced the officer of the house in black letters: LTC RM CORY JR.

Andrea Lynne placed the punch bowl on the dining room table and called to her husband, "Rennie, the door!"

It was precisely seven o'clock. Military people always showed up on time or early for social functions. Arriving late was considered rude and undisciplined.

This Christmas party was a chance for Andrea Lynne to show off her home — and her husband. Rennie Cory had finished commanding the 2nd Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (the White Devils) that summer at Fort Bragg and was now spending the year in Vietnam as a detachment commander, searching for the remains of men missing from the Vietnam War. He arrived home December 4 and was on leave for a month. So many people had asked about him that Andrea Lynne thought it would be a grand idea to throw a huge party. Her guest list included everybody who was anybody — even members of the "Bragg mafia," the insiders who ran the post and handpicked officers for important positions.

That kind of networking wasn't her husband's style. Rennie was a straight-shooter. A well-built man of forty-three, who walked with a swaggering gait (the result of too many parachute jumps), he had little patience for officers who put their own desires above the needs of the Army Though he enjoyed having friends over to the house for drinks and dinner, Rennie wasn't out to impress or make contacts with anyone who outranked him. He certainly didn't relish these big affairs. When Rennie saw the names of generals and brigade commanders on the list of invitations, he hesitated, but Andrea Lynne wasn't about to budge.

"Rennie, let me explain three things," she said. "One, everybody always asks about you, and with all the press on Clinton's visit to Vietnam, it's a great opportunity for you to update people. Two, think of all the invitations we've received. It's only right to reciprocate at least once. And three, it's my party, and I'm making a command decision."

Rennie laughed, his eyes turning into half-moons as deep creases at the outer corners arced downward. "Baby, whatever you want."

So here he was, standing in the foyer under the mistletoe-hung chandelier, greeting guests as they streamed through the door bearing flowers, boxes of candy, and bottles of wine or Gentleman Jack. Rennie was a Jackand-Coke man, a detail not overlooked by the company commanders who had worked for him. They brought him only the best.

I met Lieutenant Colonel Cory just one time, the previous spring at the traditional Army airborne ritual called Prop Blast. He struck me as serious-minded. His face still bore the remnants of camouflage paint, partially worn off from a day that had started at 2:00 A.M. with a rucksack march, a river crossing, and a parachute jump. Although the Prop Blast activities by tradition were raucous — including a fair amount of drinking and joshing and a mock airplane jump where inevitably some boneheads wore only a parachute and a helmet — Rennie had been in a solemn mood. He had come in late from the hospital, where one of his lieutenants had been taken after being gravely injured on the morning's parachute jump.

It's funny what you remember about people. From that night, sitting behind Rennie, I remember the deep creases that looked like a road map on the back of his neck, not an uncommon feature for a lifelong infantryman.

Rennie had a strong handshake, and as he greeted his party guests, he looked people in the eye. He often touched his men when he talked to them; now he gave them a hug and a slap on the back. He had an uncanny sense of right and wrong, and he never lied, no matter what. His temper might flare up every now and then, but he wasn't afraid of anybody and told it like it was, damn his career. Sometimes that scared Andrea Lynne. She feared he'd get into trouble, but instead he just earned respect. His men loved him.

Exactly six feet tall, Rennie wore his dark hair short on the sides and only slightly longer on top, just long enough for a side part, as was the custom of many field-grade officers in the 82nd Airborne Division. His pale skin had long ago turned ruddy from too much sun. For the party he wore Levi's and the green Irish sweater that was a Christmas gift from Andrea Lynne. The jeans were Rennie's standard outfit, no matter the occasion. Besides, this was his house.

For their part the generals and their wives were coming in at seven right on cue — so they could exit first, an unspoken courtesy that allowed lower ranks to kick back and relax later in the evening.

The Corys were a popular couple, at the center of their social set and well known to many of the officers on the post where they had spent four tours of duty — ten of Rennie's twenty years in the Army. The men respected Rennie, and the women loved to see Andrea Lynne's latest decorating projects. The couple had a reputation for throwing great parties. Before long everyone had arrived: Colonel and Mrs. Cerrone, Colonel and Mrs. Roberson, Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs. Mayville. Lieutenant Colonel Mike Ellerbe, Rennie's best friend from childhood (both were Army brats), and his wife, Lucille, the daughter of a retired two-star general, slipped in through the back door an hour late. Soon the house was filled with laughter and chatter as guests balanced wineglasses or bottles of beer and plates of food.

Lieutenant Colonel Mike Garrett came up to Andrea Lynne in the living room, where she was standing near a table of food talking with some wives, and introduced himself. Rennie had met Garrett, a new neighbor, that afternoon on the golf course and invited him and his wife, Loralei, to the party. The Corys' second oldest daughter, Caroline, seventeen, a senior in high school, had agreed to babysit for them during the party, a testament to how quickly relationships formed on Army posts.

"You are just a wonder woman," said Garrett, a good-looking black commander.

Andrea Lynne cocked her head to one side. "What do you mean?"

Garrett looked around. "All this. Your home. It's right out of a magazine. The food is fabulous, everything. And look at you, you're gorgeous!"

"Okay, what do you want?" Andrea Lynne said matching his grin with her own big smile.

"No, Andrea, this is amazing. Rennie is a lucky man."

It was true that Andrea Lynne never did the minimum when it came to food and drink. She wanted guests to feel as if they never wanted to leave her home.

Social gatherings have always been an integral part of Army life. They date back to isolated Old West outposts, where Army families lived on an austere and often hostile frontier and where they had only one another for protection and companionship. The post came to symbolize security and community And many Army couples enjoy the military tradition of entertaining in their homes. The coffees and parties offer a chance to get to know one another despite a constant state of flux. Every month there are "hails and farewells" for officers and their spouses who are joining a unit or leaving it.

The Corys' toffee-colored, stucco Spanish Colonial Revival — style house was part of Fort Bragg's Normandy housing area, which was named, like all the streets and neighborhoods on the post, for the great battle campaigns of World War II.

Fort Bragg itself — home to the 18th Airborne Corps headquarters, the 82nd Airborne Division, the Green Berets, and the secretive Delta Force — has more than 42,000 soldiers and is mammoth, with almost four times the land area of the nation's capital. The post had been named for Braxton Bragg, an arguably inept and indecisive Confederate general who was despised by his men and had been relieved of his command but was nonetheless a Civil War hero in the Old South. All the necessities of urban life are there: a post office, hospital, schools, churches, day care, movie theater, florist, shopping, gas stations, two Class VI (liquor stores), sports bars, fast food restaurants, pools, bowling, two golf courses, gyms, fishing, parks, you name it. It is possible to stay on the post and never leave. I grew up hearing my parents and others casually refer to life on the outside. The world beyond the gates is known as precisely that — the outside — a foreign place populated by slack civilians.

At Fort Bragg I found that many of the senior officers wanted to live in Normandy, which seemed happily suspended between the present — the high-paced operation tempo that governed life on a combat-ready post — and a bygone era in which Army wives wore hats and gloves, and in which calling cards were part of their social etiquette. Normandy surrounds the Main Post Parade Field, which had been built in the shape of a chevron when "Camp Bragg" was a mule-powered field-artillery post during World War I. The trees are older than Andrea Lynne; and the houses, constructed between 1928 and 1931, belong, like old quarters on military posts everywhere, to Army tradition.

And like everything in the Army, the houses are arranged and awarded according to rank. Captains and majors live in the redbrick ranch duplexes in Lower Normandy. The quarters may be small and cramped, but there is still a waiting list to get one. The single ranches nearby are slightly bigger. You have to know someone or be willing to wait a year or two to get in. The one-story bungalows and the two-story duplexes are for lieutenant colonels. Full colonels live in two-story homes, which are upgraded for generals by adding awnings on the windows, putting an ice maker in the fridge, and maybe building a privacy fence in the backyard. Behind the quarters are small garages used in the old days to house polo ponies or Model T's. Most people use them as sheds. Rennie kept his Harley in theirs.

Rennie had lived in several Normandy homes and even helped build the quarters in Biazza Ridge as a teenager, when his father, retired Colonel Rennie Cory Sr., was stationed at the post. The duplex at 11 South Dupont Plaza sat on the upper end of a horseshoe-shaped street that was home to officers — mostly lieutenant colonels — holding key positions. A short walk down Totten Street led to the officers' club, the pool, tennis courts, and Ryder Golf Course.

Andrea Lynne loved everything about her house — the hardwood floors, the winding staircase with its black handrail, the fireplace, the corner cabinets with glass doors in the dining room, the built-in bookcases in the living room, the high ceilings, and the deep windowsills on which she displayed treasures gathered during a lifetime in the Army. It was Andrea Lynne's dollhouse, and she decorated it in English country style with Victorian overtones.

At Christmastime she really went all out. The previous December, in 1999, the Cory home was one of twelve quarters featured on the Normandy Housing Tour of Homes, a huge annual holiday fund-raiser sponsored by the Fort Bragg Officers' Wives Club. The word on the street that night was, You just need to go see the Cory home.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Army Wives"
by .
Copyright © 2006 Tanya Biank.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Prologue     xi
Introduction     1
Innocence-Christmas 2000     9
Crisis-February 2001 to March 2002     83
Resolution-Summer 2002     197
Epilogue: Fort Bragg, North Carolina-Spring 2005     255
Acknowledgments     261

Reading Group Guide

ARMY WIVES is a groundbreaking narrative that details the complex personal challenges Army wives face and presenting a provocative new look at Army life. Tanya Biank goes beyond the sound bites and photo ops of military life and shows what it is really like to be an Army wife.

In the summer of 2002, Army wives were in the headlines after Biank, a military reporter for the Fayetteville Observer, made international news when she broke the story about four Army wives who were brutally murdered by their husbands in a span of six weeks at Fort Bragg, an Army post that is home to the Green Berets, Airborne paratroopers, and Delta Force commandos. By that autumn, Biank, an Army brat herself, realized the still untold story of Army wives lay in the ashes of that tragic and sensationalized summer. She knew the truth: wives were the backbone of the Army. They were strong—not helpless—and deserved more than the sugarcoating that often accompanied their stories in the media.

Army Wives tells the story of four typical Army wives who, in a flash, find themselves neck-deep in extraordinary circumstances that ultimately force them to redefine who they are as women and wives. In this fascinating and meticulously researched account, Biank takes the reader past the Army's gates, where everyone has a role to play, rules are followed, discipline is expected, perfection praised, and perception often overrides reality. She takes a close look at the other woman—the Army itself—and its impact on wives, marriages, and home life, and she explores what happens when real life collides with Army convention. This story of strength and perseverance is an eye-opener for those who have never experienced military life, and an anthem to those women who each day live the "unwritten code."

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Army Wives 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
1-Former-Army-Spouse More than 1 year ago
Having done things in reverse order I saw the television program before getting the audio book version. As a former career military spouse I knew from the moment I watched the first episode that the writer was one of "us" - I was hooked. The story is a great depiction of what life is really like as a military spouse. We are, I guess you could say, "single" married women, both mother and father MOST of the time. Any reader would come away with a better understanding of the uniqueness in being a military family and their sacrifices while serving our country from the sidelines in times of conflict or peace. Audio books are great to listen to on my daily one hour commute to work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am about to become an 'army wife' and I found this book very enjoyable! It gives a unique look into the lives of army wives with husbands of different rank. I thought it was excellent! I couldn't put it down!
Cheri Leffler More than 1 year ago
Obviously written by one of us..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is far from the glorified perception of what being a military spouse truly is. I absolutely love this book and I would recommend it to any lady that is about to be a military spouse.
DMALICE More than 1 year ago
I had the chance to read this book and it was amazing, me being new to the military spousal community it gave me an insight that i would not have otherwise had. I also had the chance to meet the author and she was very humbling and down to earth. what an amazing journey she took while interviewing these Soldiers and their spouses!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Honestly the only reason I can even say I kept reading this book is because my husband is from Fayetteville NC and Stedman and I lived there for 5 years myself , so I am very familiar with all the areas that she was talking about in the book. It was easy for me to identify because of that. I did not like that she made the lower enlisted seem like they are dirt poor and that we all live in trashy box apartments or trailers. My husband is lower enlisted soldier and we live pretty darn comfy without overspending. When we lived in Fayetteville we had a beautiful 1100sq ft apt which happen to be right around the corner from Andrea Cory's housing area. and nice cars and we had food and we weren't struggling. This isn't to say that there are some other families who don't struggle but I think it is unfair for a women who husband was an officer and father was a Col to make that assumption, since she herself has never lived that life. I also think she found the lowest enlisted wives she could and thats what her assumptions were based off of. Half the wives I know are not at the food bank scavaging for food. All in all its a good read and you can see where it matches up with the show.