The Army Town

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Maxine Crockett has the experience of being both an Army wife and a soldier. Maxine spent 13 years active duty in the Army before bad knees forced her out in 2002. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Ricky Crockett of the 51st Signal Battalion, left Fort Bragg in the spring of 2003.

"It's something that I kind of got used to," says Maxine, "so when he went to Iraq, I really didn't pay it any mind. I said, 'Well, it's only a year for him. He'll be back.'"

Dual military couples like the Crocketts have become much more common in the volunteer military; the army alone has 20,000 such couples. During her career, Maxine served as an Army cook in Saudi Arabia, Bosnia, and other places around the world. Once, she spent 14 months away in Korea while Ricky was posted at Fort Bragg.

"When I came back in 2000, he was gone already, in the field in California. I had to take a taxi home. In 2002 they decide that they're going to send him to Korea," says Maxine. "We never end up going at the same time."

Maxine's daughter, Marvise, was born in 1990. When she was six months old, Maxine and Ricky both got sent to the first Iraq War. They left Marvise with Ricky's parents and sisters in rural Georgia. Other deployments followed. Maxine says by the time Marvise was four, she felt more at home with her Georgia relatives. So even though Maxine and Ricky were both assigned to Hawaii at the time, young Marvise insisted on living with her grandparents.

"So we finally did decide to go on leave, we brought her back," says Maxine. "And soon as we got home to Georgia, she told us, 'Y'all can go now.' She tried to put our clothes on the porch 'cause she thought we were going to take back. So we left her in Georgia. That [has] always been her home."

It's just before Christmas, 2004. Maxine's in her husband's hometown, Broxton, Georgia. She drove down to spend the holidays with her husband's family - and her daughter, Marvise, who's 14 now and living with her grandfather. The elder Mr. Crockett is a retired tenant farmer. Maxine says her husband's family was proud when Ricky joined the Army after finishing high school in 1984.

"That was his escape from, I guess, working in the fields, being a farmer," says Maxine as she drives a paved road outside of town. "And to our left is the cemetery right there where them gates are. .. This is where Rick and his mother is buried at, they're side by side."

Maxine Crockett visiting her husband's grave.
Photo by John Biewen

Ricky Crockett was just shy of his 38th birthday when a roadside bomb hit the vehicle he was driving in Baghdad. Maxine says the color photograph of Ricky embedded in his headstone was cropped from a picture of the two of them in their Army uniforms.

"I decided to put a heart-shaped headstone on there with his picture," says Maxine. "We had it engraved, 'In the line of duty, in Baghdad, Iraq, January the 11th, 2004. Wife, Maxine and Daughter, Marvise.'"

Maxine says the teenage Marvise took her father's death hard, but only showed real emotion at his funeral. After that, she says, Marvise seemed to harden. She doesn't like talking about her father's death. Marvise made herself scarce when she heard a radio producer was coming to Broxton.

"Right now, she hasn't come to reality that her dad is - that her dad is not coming - she knows that he's gone, but," says Maxine, "everybody does it in a different way."

More than six percent of active duty members in the military are single parents.

Source: DMDC Military Family File

For a while after her father died, Marvise lived with Maxine in North Carolina. But Maxine sent Marvise to Georgia to be near the people who raised her, her grandfather and her aunts.

"It's easier on her, if she breaks, to be close to family," says Maxine. "Me, I will be O.K., but I'm looking out for the best for her."

Maxine says if she had it to do over again, she would still join the Army. She thinks her husband would, too, even though he gave his life as a soldier. He'd recently re-enlisted for two more years. He planned to retire in 2006.

Just under half of the 1,700 service members killed in Iraq so far were married.

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