An eye-opening account of war’s reach into military homes.
What happens to military marriages during wartime? How do wives cope with their husbands’ dangerous deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq? Henderson, a journalist married to a Navy chaplain, goes to Fort Bragg, N.C., to answer those questions. At the center of her portrait are two women, Marissa Bootes and Beth Pratt, both married to men enlisted in the 82nd Airborne Division. Henderson follows Bootes and Pratt as they adjust to life on the base and prepare for the inevitable anxiety, stress, grief and fear that attend their spouses’ deployment. Pratt had some of her husband’s sperm frozen so that she could try to get pregnant while he was at war. Bootes had to rush her daughter Lexie to the hospital; the child developed a dangerous skin ailment caused by exposure to her father after he was given a smallpox vaccination. While their men are away, Henderson notes, many wives experience Anticipatory Grief Syndrome: They live in constant fear of their spouses’ being killed. While her husband was away, Bootes heroically soldiered on, working 60-hour weeks as a paralegal, taking care of Lexie and becoming something of a leader among Fort Bragg wives. Pratt, meanwhile, wrestled with serious depression—if there had been a gun in the house, she said, she would have shot herself—but also blossomed as a critic of the war. Eventually the husbands returned home, and Henderson shows how difficult it can be to rebuild a family: Soldiers don’t get the kind of counseling or support they need, and spouses may have a difficult time letting go of the independence cultivated during their time alone.
A standout in this season’s deluge of war books, bringing a vital, often overlooked perspective on America’s ongoing debates about Iraq.