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.

So  I

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

cable-channel actor?

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.

LA Weekly