OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network
We’ve had a few interviews that tugged at our heartstrings over the years, but none have given us as much pause as our recent chat with the stars of Married to the Army: Alaska. Four military wives — Blair Flanagan, Lindsey Bergeron, Rynn Randall and Yolanda Goins — recently bared their souls to us in a roundtable conversation about the upcoming OWN series.
The women are facing challenges that so many others are — the pressure of raising children, the desire to fit in and dealing with issues like depression. But in addition to all of that, they have the added stress of the fact that their husbands are all currently deployed in Afghanistan.
The new mother, Blair, explained how that has affected her, “My job as my husband’s wife is to take care of our family while he’s gone. And I do that knowing that I may not get the acknowledgement from him that I want and need as a woman and as his wife.”
She concedes that this concept might be hard for non-military spouses to understand. “That may be something that’s a little difficult to wrap your head around if you’re unfamiliar with what it is that we have to do on a daily basis. Obviously we’re in this marriage as a partnership. But I do take on the responsibility of making sure that he’s confident in our family as a whole so that he can do what he needs to do without worrying about us. ‘No pressure, but we’re all counting on you.’”
Her co-star Lindsey is a new bride who’s trying to grasp what her new responsibilities are. She revealed, “Something that is unique about Army wife life is that it is so much not about us as it is about the mission as a whole and what your husband has to do. And that’s something that I’ve come to realize through taping of this season. It’s not always about how I’m feeling, if it’s best for the group as a whole.”
She also has come to accept the fact that she can’t communicate with her husband, Major Phillip Bergeron, like a normal spouse does. She explained, “Sometimes my husband can’t call me. He can’t Skype me… Maybe he could call me but he’s too busy to call me. It’s not like what civilians have where if you’re angry with your husband, you want to call them and tell them you’re angry. You can’t do that. You have to wait it out until they can call you or they have the time to call you. And that’s something that’s frustrating.”
Lindsey continued, “A civilian’s husband may go on a business trip for two or three weeks and they’re in a hotel. They’re going to come back after those two or three weeks and if you really want to, you can fly and go see them. And that is not our life at all. We cannot get on a plane and go see our husbands. We cannot pick up a phone and dial our husbands. We just have to sit back and wait. And that is something that I think a lot of people take for granted and seeing the show will maybe make them appreciate that a little bit more.”
As a mother of teens, Rynn is in a different stage of her ongoing evolution as an Army wife. She remarked, “It’s not just a soldier that goes to war. The family goes to war. And so my kids have to go a year without having their dad at home. And when you have teenagers, that’s when you need dad at home. So that’s been a struggle for me but through this journey and this therapist that I’ve been able to work with I’ve learned that dad the disciplinarian isn’t around and so it’s okay for my kids not to like me. It’s okay. That’s what part of being a parent is all about.”
She added, “When your children’s dad is gone for a year, you tend to want to compensate by giving your kids things and loving them and giving them their way — that’s my nature. And I had to learn that that’s not okay. And they can hate me for a time but in the long run they’re going to appreciate it. They’re going to be grateful.”
Like so many of the other women, Yolanda must be her husband Colonel Morris Goins’ personal rock. She divulged, “He has a lot on his shoulders. So as his wife it is my duty first of all I pray daily for the brigade and for the soldiers, civilians, the spouses and the leaders of the brigade. And ultimately he is accountable for those soldiers and civilians and ultimately I am accountable for his well being. He calls me his peace blanket and so whenever we talk, I’m sort of listening — how’s his voice, how’s he doing? I am the one who tells him to go to bed. ‘You need rest. You need to go to the doctor.’ So with so much responsibility on his shoulders, I undergird him and I support him.”
Yolanda also has an even more intense level of official responsibilities. She described her duties, “He makes decisions where we could lose soldiers. Whether they should go out or whether they should not go out — that falls on him. He’s responsible. And so as the Brigade Commander’s wife, I take that very seriously to just make sure that my husband is just able to operate at maximum capacity. That he serves the nation — that is the way that I serve the nation. And as the Brigade Commander’s wife, sometimes I get phone calls — two, three, four, five — it could happen at any time.”
She recalled, “For example, I actually received a call saying that we had fallen soldiers like ten minutes before I had to be at an event called G.I. Jane Day. And so as the brigade commander’s wife I carry that. I cannot talk to anyone about it other than those who need to know.”
While her burden is heavy, Yolanda strives to do it with grace. “I carry that responsibility and what I face on a daily basis no matter what it going on, I try my best to put on a smile. I try my best to go out and smile and show strength — to show the ladies that it’s going to be okay. There’s always hope. Even in the midst of a blackout. Even in the midst of we’re at a town hall meeting and we have to tell all the spouses we have another fallen soldier. I try my best to smile and be a pillar of strength for them so they know everything is going to be okay in spite of what we’re facing in this moment.”
Tune in to Married to the Army: Alaska this fall to see how their stories unfold.
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