Deborah Amos: From American Public Media, this is Married to the Military, an American RadioWorks documentary. I'm Deborah Amos.
Amos: In today's volunteer military, one soldier in two is married with children.
Amos: In the coming hour, the private world of the home front - military families and an Army town.
Amos: Married to the Military from American RadioWorks. First, this news update.
Amos: This is Married to the Military, an American RadioWorks documentary from American Public Media. I'm Deborah Amos.
The United States is making huge demands on its military people; the toughest since the Vietnam War. But the military has changed since Vietnam. Then, most soldiers were young, single men. Today, in the all-volunteer military, about half of all service people are married with children, so the burdens of fighting these wars are shared in military homes and military towns.
In Married to the Military, producer John Biewen takes us to Fort Bragg, the nation's largest Army post, and its home, Fayetteville, North Carolina, for a look inside the private world of the home front. Our main guide to military family life is Jeannette Mulligan. She's married to Sgt. Clinton Mulligan of the 82nd Airborne Division. Jeannette recorded a journal and moments from her daily life over several months.
John Biewen: Jeannette Mulligan is forty. She's from Baltimore. She and her husband Clinton have been together six years. She has a 13-year-old son from a previous marriage. Then there's the two-year-old, Liam, and Olivia, who's five.
Biewen: Jeannette has red hair cut stylishly short. Her ears are pierced four times each. She and her family live in Fort Bragg housing. Their winding street is lined with identical tan duplexes and carports. The subdivision is named Ste. Mere Eglise, after a French town captured by 82nd Airborne paratroopers on D-Day, 1944.
Biewen: It's early 2005 and Jeannette's husband, Sgt. Clinton Mulligan, is in Iraq for the second time since the war started. This time, his unit left in December of '04 to provide security for the upcoming Iraqi elections.
Biewen: Jeannette is active in the Family Readiness Group for her husband's battery. It's a volunteer group sponsored by the Army for spouses to stay in touch and support one another. Clinton Mulligan is in field artillery. The Army bars women from those jobs, so all of the spouses in Jeannette's Family Readiness Group are women.
Biewen: Fort Bragg soldiers like Jeannette Mulligan's husband do their coming and going here, at a huge corrugated steel shed about the size of a football field. It's on Pope Air Force Base, right next door to Fort Bragg. Men and women in combat uniforms sit on rows of wooden benches, most of them wearing the red beret of the 82nd Airborne. Many are surrounded by wives or husbands, and children.
Biewen: This day, 260 soldiers are waiting to board planes for Iraq. One young man in desert camouflage leans back against a bench holding to his chest a tiny baby in a pink sleeper. He and his wife sit side by side, not talking much. The soldier gazes at the baby.
Biewen: Sergeant Avery is a 29-year-old medic. His first child, Zoe Sophia, was born six weeks ago. He expects he won't see her for six months to a year.
Biewen: Avery's wife says she doesn't want to talk about it.
Some crusty military officer of a past generation is supposed to have said, "If the Army wanted you to have a wife, soldier, it would have issued you one." These days, military officials bring up the quote only to say that Army is gone.
Biewen: Colonel Al Aycock gives me a driving and walking tour of Fort Bragg. It looks a little like the old Soviet bloc with its low-slung, functional buildings painted in shades of brown. The military is noted for operating like a socialist society, providing complete healthcare coverage and housing assistance. But to keep its volunteer employees happy, the Army has spawned dozens of new programs for spouses and children.
Biewen: As Garrison Commander, Colonel Aycock is effectively the mayor of Fort Bragg. He's in charge of meeting the needs of 30,000 people, soldiers and their families, who live on the post. Aycock shows off Fort Bragg's youth center, with its two gyms, martial arts and dance studios, and indoor pool.
Biewen: A few years ago the Army converted an old building into the Family Readiness Center.
Biewen: Hanging on the wall, there's an array of flyers about Army programs. You can get help managing the family checkbook, preparing for a soldier's deployment or return, or finding a counselor to deal with stress.
Biewen: Tabitha Minto is from Hendersonville, in the North Carolina mountains. She and her husband, specialist Byron Minto, now live next to Fort Bragg in Fayetteville. Military volunteers disproportionately come from Southern and Western states, from working-class backgrounds, and from small towns. Byron Minto joined the Army in 2000 looking for a secure job. Tabitha never liked his decision, even before 9/11.
Biewen: Tabitha and Byron got married in October of 2001. When I first meet her, it's May of 2004, and she's still just 20 years old. She's having lunch with a friend at a Mexican restaurant on Bragg Boulevard in Fayetteville. Tabitha and Byron have a 15-month-old son, Cameron. Byron has been in Iraq with the 35th Signal Brigade for 13 months. Before it became clear that the war would be a long struggle, the Army promised soldiers their tours in Iraq would last no more than a year.
Biewen: That latest extension came just a couple of weeks ago. Tabitha fights back tears repeatedly. She's angry at the Army for breaking its promise, but she says she also got mad at her husband. She fought with him over the phone, wanting him to come home, especially since their baby is having minor surgery next week. But Byron can't take time off like a civilian. He can't quit his job without risking jail time.
Biewen: That's Tabitha's friend, Heidi Sedek. She's also married to a soldier.
Biewen: Tabitha doesn't seem to find the story very funny. One study found that long deployments can double the divorce rate among military families.
Biewen: Jeannette Mulligan shows no sign she's considering divorce. But just a week after she talked with frustration about the "crybabies," she finds herself struggling to cope.
Amos: Coming up, a look at one city's marriage to the military.
Amos: I'm Deborah Amos. You're listening to Married to the Military from American RadioWorks. Our program continues in just a moment, from American Public Media.
Amos: This is Married to the Military, an American RadioWorks documentary from American Public Media. I'm Deborah Amos.
When people join the military, they strike a complicated bargain for their families. They get job security and opportunity, but also danger and disruption in their lives. In a similar way, towns that host military bases get mixed blessings. Fayetteville, North Carolina is home to the Army's biggest post by population with 60,000 military and civilian employees. Soldiers and their families make up half the city's population.
Fort Bragg's $2 billion annual payroll fuels the local economy, but Fayetteville struggles with image problems, and real problems, that come with being a military town.
Here's more of John Biewen's look at the home front. We begin again with Army spouse Jeannette Mulligan.
Biewen: Jeannette's husband, Sergeant Clinton Mulligan, was sent to Fort Bragg in the summer of 2003, then to Iraq. Jeannette and the three children lived off-post in Fayetteville for a few months, but the family jumped at the first chance to move inside the gates of Fort Bragg. Jeannette says she does some shopping in Fayetteville, but she doesn't think much of the city.
Biewen: Roy Parker is a former editor of the Fayetteville Observer. He still writes a column on local history for the newspaper. He drives me down the commercial strip that runs from the gates of Fort Bragg southeast to downtown Fayetteville. The street still has plenty of pawn shops and strip clubs, but Parker says it's family-friendly compared to the early '70s when he moved to town.
Biewen: Fayetteville leaders have worked to remove the seediest parts of Army life from public display. During the Vietnam War, bar-hopping and drug-using draftees earned Fayetteville a bad reputation and a nickname that stuck: Fayettenam. Marshall Pitts is the Mayor of Fayetteville.
Biewen: That disdain had to do with the partying habits of young soldiers and their tendency to date local daughters. Fayetteville leaders say the more professional, volunteer military has helped. Now, more soldiers come to town pushing strollers and looking for a church instead of a brothel. In turn, the city has embraced its military identity.
Biewen: Next to the handsome old railway station, where topless bars used to stand, is Fayetteville's most ambitious new tourist attraction: the $24 million Airborne and Special Operations Museum. Fort Bragg is home to the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, and Special Operations and Special Forces units.
The museum's huge lobby is enclosed in glass with a soaring, five-story ceiling. You can't help but look up at the two uniformed mannequins suspended overhead.
Biewen: John Duvall is the museum's director.
Biewen: That's just a warm-up. Inside, the museum's sprawling gallery exhibits trace the history of the Army airborne.
Biewen: There's a tank on display, and several Army helicopters and airplanes. The body of a C-47 aircraft lets you imagine yourself a paratrooper.
Biewen: Local people built the museum with government grants and private donations, and now run it jointly with the Army. It's hard to imagine a louder statement: this is an Army town.
Biewen: In early 2005, a coalition of city and county leaders announced a new step in their campaign to fix Fayetteville's image.
Biewen: The city hopes to capitalize on its big military presence, and its history. Local people played roles on both sides of the revolutionary war, and the town was named after the French hero Lafayette. At the end of the Civil War, Sherman's Army came through town and burned an arsenal. John Meroski of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Biewen: Almost everybody agrees it will be tough to change Fayetteville's image. Chuck Fager is a kind of resident pacifist in this military town. He's Director of Quaker House. The group runs a hotline to help service members who want to get out of the military.
Biewen: Fager argues an Army town can never be an attractive destination for most people who have no direct contact with the military and like it that way.
Biewen: A survey by the Fayetteville Observer found that one in four local residents knew someone personally who's been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Almost 40 percent know a service member who's been wounded.
The trauma that sometimes comes with military life takes other forms, too.
Biewen: To some in Fayetteville, these recent reports on child abuse felt like piling on. Already, the city faced constant questions about domestic homicides involving Fort Bragg soldiers. In one six-week spate in the summer of 2002, four military wives were murdered, all allegedly by their soldier husbands just back from Afghanistan. Two of the four soldiers also killed themselves.
Military families are often at high risk for spouse and child abuse even before you add stressful deployments to war zones, says Pam McEvoy of the Child Advocacy Center of Fayetteville.
Biewen: McEvoy praises Fort Bragg's leaders for facing the problems head-on. Garrison Commander Al Aycock says the Army already had an array of counseling programs before the spate of domestic killings, but not enough soldiers and their families were using them.
Biewen: Aycock says the Army also got better at packaging the help that it offers its people. For example, by changing the name of a counseling group for soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress.
Biewen: Getting good attendance at the dads' class could save lives. McEvoy of the Child Advocacy Center says Fort Bragg and the surrounding communities have higher than average rates of shaken baby syndrome.
Biewen: People in Fayetteville know that lots of outsiders, especially in more upscale cities, see their town as undesirable and blame the military. But some people in town say the big military presence has had positive social effects, too. Take race, and the example set by Fort Bragg.
Biewen: Former newspaper editor Roy Parker points out the military ended racial segregation well before most of Southern society did. By 1951, Fort Bragg ran its own segregated schools for the children of soldiers; the white kids in a spacious building, the black children squeezed into a smaller one.
Biewen: That is, three years before the Brown decision, and more than a decade before segregation ended in the Fayetteville public schools.
If you ask the men at the mostly-black VFW Post 6018 in Fayetteville, there doesn't seem to be any doubt that the military's been a welcome influence.
Biewen: Phillip Allen is a 54-year-old Vietnam Veteran. His father, James Allen, was a mess sergeant at Fort Bragg after World War II, so Phillip grew up there in the 1950s and '60s.
Biewen: The father and son remember going to movie theaters during the Jim Crow years in Fayetteville.
Biewen Allen: And, by contrast, on Fort Bragg.
Biewen: When black students from Fayetteville State sat in at segregated lunch counters in the early '60s, small groups of soldiers, Black and white, went downtown to support them. Nobody claims Fayetteville has solved racial inequality, but many argue it's more open and tolerant today than it would have been without the military. The town elected its first Black mayor, Marshall Pitts, in 2001.
Biewen: Over the decades, thanks to the U.S. military's global reach, soldiers have brought the world to Fayetteville.
Biewen: Every September since the late 1970s, Fayetteville has held an International Folk Festival on its downtown streets. There's food, costumes and traditional dance from countries across the world.
Biewen: Mayor Pitts.
Biewen: A highlight of the festival is a parade of nations, a miniature Olympic opening ceremony through the town square. This time, about 30 nations are represented, from Argentina to Vietnam. The largest delegations come from places with big U.S. Army posts: Japan and Okinawa, Korea, the Philippines, Panama.
Biewen: Diversity among the people of Fayetteville extends to opinions about the Iraq War.
Biewen: In March, 2005, on the second anniversary of the start of the war, about 3,000 people join an anti-war march and rally in Fayetteville. It's billed as the biggest anti-war demonstration in town since 1971 when Jane Fonda came here to protest the Vietnam War.
Biewen: Mabry drove down from Raleigh for the demonstration. Some others came from Chapel Hill, Washington D.C. and beyond.
Biewen: A couple hundred counter-demonstrators stand across the street from the peace rally. Many dismiss the anti-war protestors as outside rabble rousers. Chris Dodds is a veteran from nearby Lee County.
Biewen: But some of the protesters are military spouses.
Biewen: Kara Hollingsworth's husband, specialist Dante Hollingsworth, has been assigned to Fort Bragg since 2002. She says she hesitated to speak at the protest.
Biewen: But Hollingsworth says she's discovered many others in local military families who oppose the Iraq war. She says her husband is keeping his promise to the Army, to simply do his job.
Biewen: In fact, 44 percent of local residents polled by the Fayetteville Observer in June 2005 said the war in Iraq was not worth fighting. That opposition was just slightly lower than in national polls.
Biewen: Roy Parker says Fayetteville chose an industry and an identity back in 1918. That's when it landed what was first called Camp Bragg. Then, Fayetteville was a little town on the Cape Fear River. Sort of like a young person from a working-class neighborhood who can't see many career prospects, and visits the military recruiter.
Amos: Still to come:
Amos: I'm Deborah Amos. You're listening to Married to the Military. To see photographs of Fayetteville and the Mulligan family, and to hear from Jeannette Mulligan's audio diary, visit our Web site: AmericanRadioWorks.org. You'll also find information on ordering a CD, or downloading an MP3 of this program.
Married to the Military is a production of American RadioWorks and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Major funding for American RadioWorks comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Our program continues in a moment, from American Public Media.
Amos: This is Married to the Military, an American RadioWorks documentary from American Public Media. I'm Deborah Amos.
Military officials like to say they recruit individuals, but re-enlist families. Most soldiers won't decide to stay in the military without the support of their husbands or wives. In the last part of our program, weighing the benefits of military life against the risks and the trials.
We get back to Jeannette Mulligan, who's been waiting for her husband to return from Iraq. But first, two other women who watched their husbands leave for the war. Tabitha Minto is the young woman from Hendersonville, North Carolina. We met her in the spring of 2004 in a Mexican restaurant in Fayetteville. She decided she was "not strong enough" for the life of a military spouse, after her husband's tour in Iraq was extended beyond a full year. John Biewen picks up Tabitha's story in the fall of 2004.
Biewen: Tabitha's in nursing school. Her husband, Specialist Byron Minto, is going to work every day at Fort Bragg with the 35th Signal Brigade; he's in the last days of his four-year enlistment. When that's finished, he'll use the G.I. Bill to get an electrician's degree at Fayetteville Technical Community College. Byron says early in his tour in Iraq, he came close to re-enlisting.
Biewen: The military has increased re-enlistment bonuses during the Iraq War; soldiers in some jobs can get up to $50,000. The services are meeting their goals for re-enlistments. But new recruits are staying away, in a time of dangerous and repeated deployments to the Middle East. In the first eight months of the 2005 fiscal year, the Army missed its recruiting goals by more than 15 percent. The Pentagon's stop-loss policy has kept thousands of soldiers on active duty after completing their enlistments. The policy won't affect Byron.
Biewen: Byron and Tabitha's son, Cameron, was two months old when Byron was sent to Iraq for what turned out to be a 15-month tour. That long separation soured the couple on the military, especially Tabitha.
Biewen: Byron says he's proud to have served his country. He says the Army helped him grow up, not to mention the college money and a V.A. loan that helped him and Tabitha buy their ranch house. Byron was 23 and delivering pizzas when he signed up. But officials at Fort Bragg will tell you that a married soldier's decision to re-enlist, or not, is usually a joint one. The spouse often tips the scales.
Biewen: Maxine Crockett has been 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.
Biewen: 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.
Biewen: 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.
Biewen: 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.
Biewen: Ricky Crockett was just shy of his 38 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.
Biewen: Maxine says the teenager, 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.
Biewen: 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.
Biewen: 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. Ricky had 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.
Biewen: Jeannette Mulligan has almost made it through her husband's second deployment to Iraq. This time, she was a single mother for four months. Josiah, her 13-year-old son from her first marriage, did help with his little sister and brother.
Biewen: Josiah shoots baskets in a park near his family's home on Fort Bragg. He has dark hair and wears a purple football jersey. He plans on a career as an NFL quarterback, not a soldier or a basketball player.
Josiah's step-father, Sgt. Clinton Mulligan, came home from Iraq once before, a year ago, after spending seven months there with his field artillery unit.
Biewen: It's a cool, gray Easter morning back at Pope Air Force Base, next to Fort Bragg. Several hundred soldiers come off a commercial jumbo jet onto the tarmac. They're in desert camouflage and red berets, rifles strapped to their backs. They march in formation into the big steel shed where they said goodbye to their families four months ago.
Biewen: Jeannette and the three kids wait behind a rope line with a couple of Jeannette's best friends. Their husbands are also somewhere among the identical-looking soldiers standing in straight lines.
Biewen: As a 20-piece Army band plays, tears stream down Jeannette's face. For a few moments, she marches in place.
Biewen: After a long minute, Clinton Mulligan sneaks up and embraces his wife from behind.
Biewen: During this deployment, Sgt. Mulligan's battery was mostly in Baghdad and Mosul guarding forward operating bases. He says it was more boring than frightening.
This probably won't be his last tour in a war zone.
Biewen: Clinton sees the military as a good way to support a family, and a mission. His father was a Navy man. Clinton says he grew up being taught the value of sacrifice.
Biewen: A sergeant at Clinton's level earns about $26,000 a year plus combat bonuses, health coverage, and free housing on post. Jeannette says she likes the job security. Still, marrying a soldier took a lot of getting used to, even though she grew up in a military family.
Biewen: Jeannette says she supports her husband's career. She wants to help him relax after his time in a war zone. But she needs a break, too.
Amos: I'm Deborah Amos. The burden of fighting America's wars used to be shared more widely. Almost anyone's son could be drafted. Americans expected higher taxes during wartime - maybe even rationing. Now, our wars go on without touching most of us directly. The nation's 1.4 million service members - active duty, guard, and reserve - constitute a small sliver of society. In military communities, wives, husbands, and children send off their soldiers. They wait until they come home...and send them off again.
Host: Married to the Military was produced by John Biewen. It was edited by Catherine Winter. Mixing by Tom Mudge. Production assistance from Ellen Guettler, Marta Berg, and Ben Schmidt. Web production by Ochen Kaylan. Senior Producer is Sasha Aslanian. Project Director, Misha Quill. The Executive Editor is Stephen Smith. The Executive Producer, Bill Buzenberg. I'm Deborah Amos.
To see statistics on military families and photo essays by Christopher Sims of the Center for Documentary Studies, visit our Web site: AmericanRadioWorks.org. You'll also find an archive of American RadioWorks documentaries.
Major funding for American RadioWorks comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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