I guess I've never understood the allure of Army Wives, the Lifetime Channel hit filmed on a real Army base in South Carolina. It's not because most of the adult characters are far more gorgeous and sensitive than the grumpy old potato sacks I remember growing up with on military installations — they have to be, it's television. Nor is it because the characters' houses seem like mansions compared to the WWII-era clapboard-and-tar-paper quarters we called home. Maybe it's just that the dilemmas facing the residents of TV base-housing seem somehow cooler and sexier than the stupid problems our neighbors got into.
My dad was a military cop, so he saw how unglamorous extreme behavior could be. He'd come home and tell us about peeling the drunken wife of an officer off the floor, or how he'd been called to help quell some bar fight off-base, arriving as bullets whizzed by him. Then there was the time when two airmen were playing quick-draw in a highly restricted section of the base's flight line, and one shot the other dead. Lots of paper work with that one.
Army Wives images from Lifetime Channel
The real-life Army wives — actually, Air Force wives in our
case — were a tight, insular group who had no money and were forbidden
by their husbands from working. They spent their evenings smoking on
wooden porches, wine glasses in hand and pausing to shout at children
they could not see. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, my dad and the
other men from our Northern California base were barracked for two weeks. My mother and her
friends began to worry what they were going to do if war broke out —
and so they devised a plan. They decided, sanely enough, to move three
or four fatherless families off-base into one big house.
can't imagine where the money for this move was to come from, but it
didn't matter because once the crisis ended our base was no longer
sealed off from the civilian world, and the plan was quickly forgotten.
I've often wondered how that would've worked out, especially in the
event of a thermonuclear war. Perhaps these military wives had to
construct a fantasy world without rent and missiles because to even
think about the pending holocaust would just be torture.
was more than interested in the announcement that, under the USO
banner, cast members from the Lifetime series were going to entertain
the ranks stuck at Guantanamo, Cuba. Not the prisoners of our
concentration camps there, of course, but the soldiers and families who
bravely suffer long hours of boredom, surrounded by a country that
doesn't want them there. The USO has made a comeback of sorts with
America's war-bingeing of the last decade or so, but it must occur to
the organization's ringmasters that their glory could be short-lived.
In the post-Bob Hope era of narcissistic, virtual entertainments, why
would some guy in charge of water-boarding want to get a hug from a
Still, Army Wives is starting its
third season, while Gitmo's “extraordinary interrogation techniques”
will soon become the stuff of History Channel documentaries. In the
meantime the USO and its Lifetime Channel troupe can breeze through the
U.S. enclave in Cuba with a see-no-evil attitude, and the soldiers
guarding the base's 250 remaining prisoners (who've been there without
trial for six or seven years) can receive positive reinforcement from
TV entertainers. For either side to consider what they are really doing
would, perhaps, just be torture.