Army Wives The Unwritten Code of Military Marriage

Tanya Biank

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

288 Pages



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Under the Sabers is a narrative detailing the complex personal challenges Army wives face, presenting a new look at Army life. Tanya Biank shows what it is really like to be an Army wife—from hauling furniture off the rental truck by yourself at a new duty station when your husband is in the field, to comforting your son who wants his dad home from Afghanistan for his fifth birthday.

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 the 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.

Under the Sabers 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 Army wives. In this book, 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. Biank explores what happens when real life collides with Army convention. Biank describes what it means to be a wife and mother in a subculture that is in a constant state of readiness for war, and takes a close look at the other woman—the Army itself—and its impact on wives, marriages, and home life.


Praise for Army Wives

"From tragic to bittersweet, this is the untold story of the wives of our Army warriors—a powerful look for civilians and soldiers alike into the lives of women who each day embrace Duty, Honor, Sacrifice."—W.E.B. Griffin

"I was raised with the book The Army Wife by Nancy Shea, which gave us pointers on how to be a good one. Tanya Biank is certainly not a Nancy Shea author. She is not telling us what to do, but telling us how it is—or was—at Fort Bragg. Her experience as a reporter has produced a candid and detailed study of her subjects and a riveting story, certain to engage Army wives of all generations. The incidents described and the issues surfaced in Ms. Biank's hard-hitting piece surely will get her readers' attentions and will cause us to say to each other, 'Now, what can we do about it?'"—Joanne Patton, the wife of Major General George S. Patton and the daughter-in-law of General George S. Patton, Jr.

"Tanya Biank has written a stunningly detailed, eye-opening account of what it is really like to be an Army wife. Under the Sabers demonstrates that while it is tough to be a soldier, it can be even tougher to be the wife of a soldier. This is a side of Army life that, until now, has escaped public scrutiny. Under the Sabers should be required reading for every military spouse and all those who are considering marrying into the military."—Ron Martz , Military affairs correspondent, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and co-author of Heavy Metal: A Tank Company's Battle to Baghdad

"The author of this provocative portrait of modern army wives is herself an army wife and comes from an army family. That combination of experience and insight enhances the value of the book's depiction of the army-family community. Basically, army wives these days are more often than not educated professionals but are expected to function enmeshed in a unique hierarchy very different from anything in civilian life. Moreover, they are far more frequently required to move house and home than civilian wives, and their risk of suddenly becoming widows is constant. For this the army has established support networks, but again, those are sui generis. Overall, Biank furnishes a detailed reminder, if any is needed, that the military is still a hierarchical subculture dominated by male values that imposes a considerable burden on those semi-innocent quasi bystanders, army wives."—Frieda Murray, Booklist

"In this insider's account of the sometimes-lethal strains that military life puts on families, Biank, an award-winning journalist and the daughter of a career army officer, finds much to admire in military spouses. She follows the lives of four women at Fort Bragg, N.C., home of the 82nd Airborne Division: the wife of a high-ranking officer who adds luster to her husband's career with her own polish; a senior noncommissioned officer's wife who ambivalently watches her son follow in his father's footsteps; a woman who falls in love with an enlisted man early in his career and struggles with balancing army demands with her own needs; and a former soldier who finds that the counterterrorist operative she married may be just as dangerous to her as he is to terrorists . . . Biank's novelistic sense of detail and suspense vividly demonstrates how 'the Army . . . could bring couples closer together . . . or it could rip relationships apart.' Army wives cope with unpredictable deployments and struggle to raise children alone, often on small paychecks, in a community both tightknit and sharply judgmental. 'Army wives serve, too,' says Biank—in an institution ambivalent about families. She makes sympathetic both their pride and their tragedies."—Publishers Weekly

"A close look at the lives of four Army wives at Fort Bragg that depicts the challenges and stresses of being married to the military. Biank, a former reporter for the Fayetteville Observer who grew up as an Army brat and is now an Army wife, knows the military life and Fort Bragg well. Her interest in the lives of Army wives was piqued in the summer of 2002 by a series of murders there that she covered for the newspaper. Here, Biank focuses on four women, Andrea Lynne Cory, the wife of a lieutenant colonel, and Delores Kalinofski, Rita Odom and Andrea Floyd, all married to enlisted men. She traces the major and minor events of their lives from Christmas 2000 through the summer of 2002. In that short time, the husband of one is killed, the son of another commits suicide and a third is murdered by her husband. Their personalities and their backgrounds differ greatly, but all are shaped by the expectations and restrictions of the military. It is a world where wives carry the rank of their husbands, where class distinctions determine whom they associate with and where and how they live, and it is a world where poverty is common among the lower ranks. For much of the time that Biank is following these women, Fort Bragg is on high alert, with men awaiting deployment. Stress levels exacerbate marital problems, but for either a man or his wife to seek counseling is seen as a sign of weakness and bad for a man's record . . . Biank has created a vivid picture of life today as a military spouse that may give any prospective bride second thoughts."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

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,...

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  • Tanya Biank

  • Tanya Biank is a Fulbright Scholar, an award-winning journalist, and a former reporter for the Fayetteville Observer. Her coverage of the Fort Bragg Army wife murders in 2002 led to Congressional inquiries and changes in Army policy. The daughter of a career Army officer, she lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband, an Army officer assigned to the Pentagon.

  • Tanya Biank




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