The media is focusing on how women in combat will affect military readiness. But no one is talking about the impact it will have on the military families whose loved ones are stationed in distant lands.
I know about the pressures military families endure because I experienced them first-hand. When my husband was assigned to a combat unit during the 2007 surge in Iraq, the only way we could reliably communicate was via instant message and text. Sometimes I wouldn’t hear for him for days and weeks. On one occasion, an entire month passed without a word.
One day, we were instant messaging when he typed the word “she.” I looked at my screen. “A woman?” I typed. A female had been temporarily transferred to his unit’s forward operating base — an unusual occurrence. My husband and I were aware of the unfaithfulness threat during deployment. His friends would come home on leave only to find their wives gone or pregnant. Some received “Dear John” letters. Others saw photos of their wives with other men on Facebook. To safeguard our marriage, I decided not to look up old flames on Facebook, not to have long personal conversations with men, and not to drink. But the idea of him being unfaithful during his service abroad never occurred to me.
He did not have an affair. During his deployment, a few women did cycle through his forward operating base. Sadly, the vast majority ended up ensnared in some sort of sexual impropriety. Fortunately, our family of four — now five — survived the deployment, and we are better off for my husband’s courageous and sacrificial decision to serve in the military. (He is a Harvard Law graduate who left his job as a constitutional attorney to serve his country.) But let’s just be honest about it. The military already has an infidelity problem. When images of David Petraeus flash across the screens of spouses left behind, images of real or imagined affairs flash across the minds of the loved ones left back home.