Those who broke their oath, and those who kept it

This was originally posted at Redstate on Feb 17, 2010 and is being reposted for Memorial Day 2011.

Courtney Cook wrote an infuriating essay for Salon that exposed the contempt she held for her marital oath and her first husband, a soldier deployed in an overseas combat theatre when she left him.

You’d be surprised how easy it is to leave a soldier on deployment. You can do it with a letter. (He can’t argue with you. He doesn’t have a phone.) If you lay the groundwork early, saying to the soldier before he leaves, “This will be the end of us, we might as well admit it,” it’s that much easier. The letter won’t even come as a shock.

And if you have children with that soldier? You can handle all that with a letter, too. He’ll write it — because he cares about the kids, because he wants to work with you to do what’s best for them even though you’re leaving him — and you’ll give it to them. Here again, you will avoid a nasty confrontation. Who will they cry to? You? You’re just the teary-eyed bearer of the letter. Him? The one who’s sweating it out in the desert?

There will be no moving truck, no boxes, no house torn asunder. The soldier is peeing in a bucket as you pack. He doesn’t care who gets the couch.

Now she has married a blue-eyed marxist war protester and had a marxist baby with him, while her ex-husband married again and had a baby with the new wife.

Nessa already wrote a beautiful response to this article. If you click through and read Ms. Cook’s diary you will know the cheater’s story, the spoiled brat’s story, the oath breaker’s story. Nessa tells the story with statistics and history. Cassy Fiano at HotAir explores the process by which this spoiled brat of a woman went astray. This diary isn’t about those things. This essay is about what oath breakers like Courtney Cook do to their husbands, men who are risking their lives to protect their families and country. And this essay is about the alternative.

Those who broke their Oath

There are online forums where people relate stories about military spouses who cheat.

I wish to h— I had the answer to that question. I was a Navy man for 12 years, and let’s just say that the wife disappeared, so to speak and things went to hell for me, but I survived it. Some guys don’t. I was a Hospital Corpsman, and I saw suicides and a couple of homicides related to just that problem. It all comes down to loving yourself as well as your spouse, and loving and trusting in God. That’s just my opinion, but to answer your question, I don’t think there is a solid answer…loneliness, depression, a feeling of abandonment, any other of a few dozen reasons or excuses. I just hope you’re not cheating, and maybe the ones who are need to reevaluate their relationships with both husband/wife and with God. [link]

This writer offers bitter advice to other soldiers.

My advice – ditch your girl before you go to war, then you won’t be disappointed when she turns out to be a filthy slut. [link]

Another soldier, a leader of men, tells about his men.

When a comrade at arms is KIA it is disturbing but not utterly debilitating, the betrayal of a spouse left behind, even one who has “prepped the battlefield” as this filthy w—- suggests is. Utterly. Totally. Debilitating. Period. I’ve seen some of the finest young men I have known reduced to crying, spineless, simpering jellyfish, incapable of even standing a guard post, much less participating in a mission. And the w—-s who cause it just go on with their shallow little lives.

A mother tells an anecdote.

My son had to hire a private investigator to track down his first wife. And even that is not the worst I’ve seen.

A sister remembers.

My brother joined the Army in the early 80’s. It was truly his last best hope of having a life (he was alcoholic). His wife was screwing around on him. My mother found her in the lap of another guy in a bar. Not thinking, she told my brother who then deserted to come home and try to save his marriage. In the end there was no saving his marriage, or his life for that matter. He ended up dying from his alcoholism at the age of 34. I know my mother wished she had never said a word. He had just finished his second year and was happier than he had seemed to be his whole life. She blamed herself for the rest of her life.

The wives who keep the faith tell stories about the ones who were once of their number and betrayed their soldier husbands.

You know, I never would have thought that there would be so many utterly wretched women in existence until I got involved with Marine families in Tennessee. Some of the stories that they told about the women who snagged their sons were so appalling that they lingered on my heart for months. Years actually, as the one that was the absolute worst had to do with a Gold Star Marine mom whose son was her only child. She adored him so, and was so proud of his choice to be a Marine, even though she was terrified for him. He met and married a girl from somewhere out West before he deployed to Iraq, where he was KIA. His loving wife, all too happy to have been named his beneficiary for the life insurance benefit, not only refused to let his mother have so much as a scrap of his personal belongings, including the letters from his mother that he had so carefully saved while in Iraq, the b—- had his body cremated and refused to let his mother have a say about where the ashes would be scattered. His mom found out just before the ceremony and rushed to get there in time. You want to have a broken heart? Just imagine this poor woman, denied every comfort after the death of her only child, arriving in time to see the ashes of her son’s body being scattered by the wind at a lake. When everyone left and no one could stop her, she remained behind, desperately trying to scrape enough of her son’s ashes out from between the boards at the pier so that she’d have something of her only son to take home with her.

And those who kept it

Oath breaking is by no means universal. There are many good military wives and husbands, who do not betray their marriage or their oath. Let’s also read their stories.

An aunt remembers.

I have never been in war myself. But my nephew, who was like a brother, went to Kuwait. He had four little girls and a wife who loved him. He also had his mom, and the rest of the family, sitting at home day after day just praying the phone didn’t ring, a letter didn’t come, or a car didn’t show up at the door to tell us he was dead.

Kuwait was supposed to be a safe place to be sent at the time. But, there had been occasions where our troops were killed or endangered by attempted attacks against them. So, every newscast, we watched for his name. Day and night, we tried to go on and do the things we needed to do, but the fear of that call, letter, or visit was always there every where we went. Every day it loomed darker and larger like a huge cloud.

We didn’t complain, we just accepted it. That was our role. We waited for his first email or letter to tell us here where we could write him and send things. The fear, the loneliness, the isolation, only added to our fears. But we still carried on. That was our job.

He didn’t have to go. He was 32 and a many times decorated local police officer. His mom could have gotten him out of it as he was her only son, and her only child. But after 9/11 he felt it was his duty to enlist and be ready in case his country needed him. And, though we were afraid for him, we knew he did the right thing.

We never got that first letter. His mom and wife did get a couple emails. He died on March 5, 2004. He didn’t die in combat. He was killed in a car accident. The driver of his car pulled into the path of an oncoming vehicle. We died with him to a big degree that fateful day. We will never be the same. His youngest at 7 months will never remember him. The next to the youngest won’t either. But the seven year old and the five year old will remember him. They will also remember his promise that he would be OK and come back to them.

Those of us left behind may not be getting shot at or have to sleep with our guns. But, we also don’t have a “Band of brothers” to help us endure our fears for the safety of our loved ones deployed. We have the MSM to show us every negative aspect of what is happening in the war. They show every atrocity our troops and others endure. They show us every taped video with the screams and fearful pleas for help that we are helpless to give them.

All we can give them is our love, our prayers, our trust, our fidelity, letters, packages, etc., that may or may not get to our loved ones or make their lives easier while they fight this war.

We die a little each time a soldier is shot. We add to our shame each time it isn’t our loved one because we are so ashamed to admit to anyone that we are so glad that if someone had to die it wasn’t our loved one. We scream silently inside that it isn’t fair our loved one has to be a part of this hell. We pray for forgiveness for all our moments of despair and fear because we just know we ought to be stronger and that maybe if we aren’t strong enough God might not bring them home because we don’t deserve it.

We wish we could be there in the place of our loved one, then chastise ourselves because we don’t know if we have the guts or what it takes to do what our deployed loved one’s are doing.

I will always wish I could have been sent instead of my nephew. I would have gladly given my life for him, exchanged places with him. But, I couldn’t and can’t. I can only go to the cemetery at night and look on as the lantern by his grave caresses him in a way none of us can ever do again! He is now with God. But I am sure that we are in hell or at least as close to it as one can come here on earth.

His wife could no more have cheated on him than he could have cheated on his wife. You see, most of us left behind don’t have time to cheat because we are too busy praying for your safe return, raising our kids, taking care of the house and bills, getting together letters and packages for you, and trying let you know we support you and we’re OK, you don’t need to worry about us, we’re safe at home so we don’t have any problems at least not like what you are going through. We will never admit to you all that goes through our heads because we don’t want you to think we are weak. We don’t want you to worry or be distracted because it could make you careless and get you killed. [link]

If you think modern day military spouses have it rough with 12 month and 15 month deployments, just think about WWII when deployments lasted for the entire war.

I have a great-uncle who is still alive. He fought with the “Jumping Jews” (6th Infantry Division, their insignia was a Star of David) in WW II. Philippines. Absolutely brutal stuff. He married his wife just before going to volunteer in early 1942. Left for basic, then for training in Australia.

It was 18 months before his wife got the first letter form him after he went to Australia.

He almost died during the battle for Luzon. Its quite a tale, when the Japanese surrendered his doctor released him from the hospital and told him to find his unit. He hitched a ride to Manila and bumped into his First Sergeant. Top put him on a boat with a bunch of the other guys and sent him home.

He arrived before his letter announcing he was coming home. His outprocessing was a bit rushed, no one told him about the Silver Star w/V device, PH or several other lesser medals he had earned. They were in his records but somehow not on his DD 214. His kids contacted the VA and DOD and traced it all down. Several years ago Senator Durenburger, before his censure and expulsion from the Senate, came to the 4th of July picnic in Holland MN, (population 49) and presented my uncle Hank with his SS w/V. That was a powerful moment, most of the surviving members of his unit were there.

As a young buck Sergeant at the time, I was a favored nephew and got to hear all the stories they were willing to share, from him, his buddies and his wife of 50+ years. Hers were the most heart wrenching, for months on end she was certain he had been killed, then when he got home, she touched him while they were sleeping, he broke in during this story and said, he woke up but didn’t realize what he was doing till he was straddling her with his hands around her throat. It seems that if anything woke you during your odd moments of sleep in the PI, it was trying to kill you so you woke up fighting. They didn’t sleep together for another 10 months.

Uncle Hank has been retired from his farm for many years now. He and LaVonne spend their days at the Holland Senior Center or visiting the farm where their son runs things. I still get letters regularly, they are appreciated now as much as they were while I was in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We’re not the people we used to be. I think we can be again, but we’re not going to like getting there.

Another uncle story from WWII.

I had one uncle who drove a truck from Normandy to Berlin and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Just a Wisconsin dairy farm boy.

Came back from the war and became a construction equipment salesman, owner of a small business and mayor of a small town for many years, M——. We had a family deer hunting tradition and he could shoot a flea off a deer’s ear at 100 yards with a Browning semi-auto 12 gauge shot gun (we couldn’t use rifles at that time in our county). When asked, “Stub, where’d you learn to shoot like that?”, he’d look incredulous and say, “Well, the Army, of course.”

The sad thing is his kids, my cousins, never pressed him for details about his exploits before he died. And I kick myself fo not having done so, too. And his wife, a wonderful Norwegian spitfire, was a Rosie the Riveter in California in the aircraft factories while her man was fighting the Nazis.

I got choked up at the reception in the Catholic church basement after his funeral and burial — I was in my early thirties and hadn’t shed a tear in almost two decades. I, too, fear we do not have enough kids like him coming into the fray, and I pray that I am wrong.

I share that prayer.

Kipling had words for soldiers on marrying, and how it is best done, in his poem The Young British Soldier. These may be the wisest words yet spoken to young soldiers going off to war.

Now, if you must marry, take care she is old –
A troop-sergeant’s widow’s the nicest I’m told,
For beauty won’t help if your rations is cold,
Nor love ain’t enough for a soldier.
‘Nough, ‘nough, ‘nough for a soldier . . .

If the wife should go wrong with a comrade, be loath
To shoot when you catch ‘em — you’ll swing, on my oath! –
Make ‘im take ‘er and keep ‘er: that’s Hell for them both,
An’ you’re shut o’ the curse of a soldier.
Curse, curse, curse of a soldier . . .

Last week I lost a good friend and colleague. Percy died on his 53rd birthday, too early, felled in sleep by his heart. He was a soldier who retired after 20 years in the Army, a NCO, and a fine network engineer. He was married when he was in the Army and had children with his first wife, but she left him sometime along the way. This was a man who had traveled all over the world, and when he retired from the Army he didn’t stop searching to find a wife to complete himself. When he found her, it would be for life. He did find a wife and married her. And it was for life. Sadly, the thread of his remaining life was all too short. Percy was a newlywed, married less than six months, when he died.

Percy’s daughter spoke at the memorial service. She was young, nervous, apologetic. She told the story of how, when she was a teenager not too long ago, her dad, my friend, told her she would not be allowed to date until she was 35. And then she told us, the audience, her greatest regret. She told us in her quavering voice, while feeling the import of what she was saying, that her dad would not be there to walk her down the aisle when the time came for her to marry. She sobbed as the preacher helped her sit down.

Percy would have wanted to walk his daughter down the aisle as much as she wanted it, for he was a man who loved being married, a man who knew what it meant to take an oath and keep it. And that is something that soldiers know something about: Keeping an oath.

Read Kipling to your daughters and sons. Tell them these stories and others like them. Teach them that marriage is a trust that binds two people and two families together as one, into an extended family that is bound with unbreakable ties of blood, and that when soldiers go off to war their spouse left at home is as important to their life and the success of their mission as anything. To be betrayed by a loved one is to be shattered. Teach them not to betray their loved ones. Teach them to take their marital oath literally, as if every word in it were sacred and holy, for that is precisely the truth of it. In short, teach them to be good.

We need more good people who can and will keep their Oaths.

The feature image is of Mary McHugh at the grave of her fiance, Jimmy Regan.

2 Comments

  1. EastBayLarry says:

    This is a great Memoirial Day tribute Beagle. Thanks for posting it. This touched my life tangentally both as a former soldier and the father of a soldier. Fortunately neither of us had to experience any of the Oath Breakers.

  2. E Pluribus Unum says:

    Very powerful. Sad, tragic, this cost of war. But I thank God for the good spouses at home.

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