How to destroy a soldier’s life
posted at 3:12 pm on February 12, 2010 by Cassy Fiano
I came across an article on Salon entitled “How to leave a soldier” that has apparently been making ripples across the blogosphere. It absolutely infuriated me, and I knew I had to write about it.
Before I get into the article, though, let me explain some things in the interest of full disclosure. My significant other is a Marine. We live together in North Carolina while he’s stationed at Camp Lejeune. He’s an 0311 (infantry rifleman) who has been to Iraq twice and is deploying to Afghanistan this year. The first year of our relationship was long distance, with him in North Carolina and me in Florida. We’re together now, but the Corps brings us apart occasionally for training and such, and of course, for deployments. Never, ever would I do something so cowardly as to send him a Dear John letter while he was deployed.
But that’s exactly what this woman did. Meet Courtney Cook, an extraordinarily shallow and callous woman.
I can chart the entire history of my first marriage along the lines of U.S. military engagements. I fell in love with my ex-husband in no small part because he was a soldier. He was a Dartmouth senior on a ROTC scholarship, and his heroes were George Patton and Ulysses S. Grant. He could use words like “valor” and “courage” without irony. I liked the way he carried himself — taller it seemed, and with honor.
So they fell in love, got pregnant, and then got married. Her then-husband was activated due to Operation Desert Shield. Long story short, she ended up not having a clue what she was getting into and wanted to leave her husband because she couldn’t handle the separation.
Now, I know firsthand how difficult a relationship in the military is. I don’t begrudge someone who acknowledges that they can’t handle it. It takes a special kind of person to be able to endure this lifestyle. Camp Lejeune is full of women who make it through with grace, dignity, and class — and women who just couldn’t do it. There’s no shame in admitting that you just can’t handle it. A lot of people, especially 18-year-olds who don’t come from a military background, just don’t fully realize what they’re getting into when they marry someone who is active-duty military. I don’t personally believe it means they should take the easy way out and leave, but I don’t think it makes them a bad person, either.
Now, on to Ms. Cook’s essay. We’re going to take this bit by bit, because the entire article is long and doesn’t need to be excerpted. So with that, away we go…
It helped that the other lieutenants in the Armor Officer Basic Course spent a lot of time with us in our married officer’s quarters. They were great, smart, handsome guys — the Channing Tatums and Jake Gyllenhaals of their day — as committed to winning their squadron intramural football league as they were to the complexities of tank gunnery and platoon leadership. Since they’d left their sweethearts at home, my unborn baby and I were the local version of what they were fighting for. Soon I too was caught up in the romance that comes with men who go off to war, seduced by the heady mix of youth, strength, risk and passion that makes loving a soldier so beautifully intense. It’s the same brew that fuels the drumbeat sexuality in contemporary war movies like “Jarhead” and “Atonement,” last December’s “Brothers,” and, one would presume, the upcoming “Dear John.” It’s a glory we can’t get enough of — until it’s gone.
Here we start to get a hint of just how shallow this woman truly is. Perhaps its just me, but when you’re comparing soldiers and military life to actors and movies, something is wrong. Sure, Jake Gyllenhaal and Channing Tatum have played soldiers on the big screen. It doesn’t make them anything remotely similar to actual soldiers. Nor is military life anything like “Atonement”, “Jarhead”, or “Brothers”. Most people, even civilians, would understand that (wouldn’t you think?). It seemed to me to be the first hint of just how shallow this woman is — and that she was going to doom her marriage with romantic, unrealistic expectations.