Not coincidentally I’m sure, a new show premiered on OWN last night about the lives of Army families stationed at Fort Richardson, Alaska. When I found out about this show I was with a friend. We both were amazed. While I blog about my life I can’t imagine being on a TV show chronicling that, just because of what I know about how reality show producers edit shows and portray people. I was also surprised that the Army approved the show; I have learned that they approve each episode. But it’s also amazing to me that these families agreed to be a part of a reality TV show. Don’t get me wrong, I love reality TV but I also know that after filming for hours upon hours, it gets edited into 20-45 minutes of show. So you are only getting a snapshot at the whole story.Married to the Army: Alaska is a behind the scenes look at Army life. But I do feel like certain personalities and stereotypes were picked, or highlighted, in editing. Or they are being played up. But here are some initial thoughts:
- Friends are so important in Army life, they really do become your family, particularly if you are far from home. I hope that these women weren’t or aren’t just friends because of the show, or even if that is the case, that these are genuine friendships.
- I think Lindsey is the most polarizing spouse on the show. I also think some of the show’s edits may make her appear a bit more mean than she really is, or at least in some ways I hope so (I watched this interview with her and love that she is maintaining her career/she doesn’t seem as mean in this clip). On Twitter during the premiere people assumed that she was fighting all of R&R with her husband, I highly doubt that. We saw two scenes of them, he was home for 2 weeks. She’s all about tradition, she reads the Army Wife Handbook, and seems to think life should be how it says. I have never read it, but while tradition is important in some regards, I think it needs to be balanced with reality. But wives do represent their husbands, so as long as you’re nice and respectful and not oh, wearing just a trench coat to a homecoming ceremony, or out partying all the time, that’s what matters at the end of the day.
- There is an officer/enlistment division, it’s a part of the structure of the military job…but the lines blur in personal lives. The notion that the two “shouldn’t associate” as Lindsey did say in the episode is outlandish to me. My friend has a sign that says “leave rank at the door” and I love it, because at home it should be casual. Personally I am friends with who I get along with. At JBLM we have a combined spouses club, I think it’s fantastic and wouldn’t want it any other way. The two clubs were combined a few years ago, and I think together we’re able to give back more to our community. In one scene of Married to the Army, Rynn, an officer’s wife is at the home of an enlisted wife for a housewarming party. So this idea of being separate is not everywhere. My “rule,” and one that my friends follow as well, is that if you get along with someone, who cares what their rank is? See my first point about friends: you need them.
- Deployment is hard. I like that the show focuses on a unit that is deployed because it really does illustrate how hard it is to be alone, but that you still get up and do what you need to do. And that constant fear when you don’t get a call or there is a knock on the door. And I can see that the reintegration struggles have already and will pop up in future episodes. I really applaud OWN and these ladies for talking about it, and focusing on it, because it is a big deal.
- My favorite spouse on the show is Yolanda. She is just so sweet. I loved that she made a point to thank the spouses for their service. It’s something that I know I am a bit uncomfortable saying to people, but I think the idea that that families serve too is getting more notice thanks to Joining Forces and other initiatives. In fact at a job fair I said to a recruiter, “well I’m just a spouse.” She replied, “You’re not just a spouse, you serve too!” And while it’s hard to think of it that way, and hard to say out loud, we do serve too. I admire my fellow spouses everyday for everything they do.
So overall: I have mixed feelings about this show. I really want to see how it evolves over the coming episodes. I think Alaska was chosen for a reason since it is so isolated. But I hope that the editing holds true to these spouses lives, and their husbands. And maybe we’ll learn more about Lindsey, or she’ll see that Officer and Enlisted wives can and do mix, to become friends.
I don’t think I’d ever agree to be featured on a reality TV show, but while I have mixed feelings on this show, I hope that it does help people learn more about the lives of military families.
What did you think about Married to the Army: Alaska? Anything surprise you or resonate?