Notes From the AUSA Annual Meeting, Part 1
Amid all the exhibits of the latest innovations in military technology and support equipment filling the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown D.C. this week, was a quiet introduction to a major development for Army spouses. In a back corner of the hall, a few of those attending were introduced to an exciting new television series, premiering on the Oprah Winfrey Network in November – “Married to the Army: Alaska.”
Even I would have missed this big news, if I hadn’t run into and then been invited by old friends, Col. Morris and Yolanda Goins. Through a twist of fate, Yolanda and 6 other spouses from the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, were chosen to participate in this unique collaboration between Hollywood and the US Army to share the real-life experiences of families going through a deployment.
The 8-episode series follows the lives of these Army spouses as their husband’s served in Afghanistan. As the media release states: “The (series) presents their raw and unflinching story as the wives confront their deepest fears about their husbands’ deployment and the struggle to raise their families alone…coping with depression and isolation, or co-parenting children over Skype…It’s the unique bond of sisterhood and the shared experience that keeps the women strong even in the most challenging times.”
I was privileged to meet executive producer Stephanie Noonan Drachkovitch, of 44 Blue Productions, who has been working for more than five years to make this series a reality. Having grown-up in a military family, she said it had become important to her to tell this story as the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts lengthened. “Living in LA, it is rare to see someone in uniform, and as I watched the news reports from the Middle East, everyone looked the same in their ACUs. But I knew behind each of the faces I saw was a family supporting that Soldier. I wanted to share their story and I hope that people gain an appreciation for the sacrifices our military and families make,” Stephanie told me.
Imagine having a camera crew shadowing your daily life while trying to cope with the stress of a deployment, not to mention the some 160-inches of snow that fell in Alaska this past winter. But these 7 spouses agreed to share the good and the bad, the tears and the laughter, the sorrows and joys of homecomings they experienced through months of separation. This isn’t a glamorized view of Army life at a fictional fort – it is a powerful look at what military families endure and sacrifice in support of the nation. I asked Yolanda what attracted her to sharing this part of her life with the world.
“I admit I did not have a gung-ho interest to do this at first…but I am so proud of being an Army wife and so proud of my husband’s service, I wanted to tell the story of my fellow Army wives. I wanted the American people to see the sacrifice and the journey of self-discovery we go through, that many women could relate to.
Yolanda hopes that through the series viewers come to understand the sacrifices military families make each day and to get a sense of what’s really important in life. “I also hope they gain a sense of the price for the freedom we enjoy, that it is paid for in life and through sacrifice by these families.”
With the full support of the Army, the series is a true window into military life. Producer Stephanie Noonan Drachkovitch hopes to include spouses from other installations and share stories from all phases of deployment in the near future.
“Married to the Army: Alaska” premieres on Sunday, November 18 from 10-11 pm. It then will be shown on its regular Monday time slot of 10-11 beginning Nov. 19. I, for one, can’t wait for this premier and will be planning a viewing party. Those of you who’ve read my previous blog about that ‘other’ Army wives show http://www.dcmilitaryliving.com/profiles/blogs/loving-or-loathing-t... will understand my enthusiasm.
You can get a sneak peek at http://www.oprah.com/own-married-to-the-army-alaska/First-Look-OWNs.... It will also be featured on Good Morning America this Thursday when Oprah is a guest host. Tune in and learn more about this amazing show.