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Army Wives: an empowering interview with creator Katherine Fugate

Victoria is a real-life army wife who adores writing and covering a multitude of topics.

An Army wife talks Army Wives

I'm a 20-year Army wife veteran, and if there's a critic out there who can nitpick "Army Wives," a series about military spouses apart, it is me. You can imagine the surprise after sitting down with Katherine Fugate for an interview to find she has it just about right.

Katherine Fugate: Well, that is hard to answer because I love all of them. They are all very unique in their own right. I would say that the two characters probably closest to me would be Roxy and Claudia Joy, simply because they are the two sides of me -the young survivor and fighter, versus the one who you hope to become, the eloquent, enlightened woman like Claudia Joy who can give that speech on the 4th of July. Which is probably my favorite piece of writing so far in the whole series is that speech, and what it means to be an Army wife and how you put aside your personal beliefs and personal politics, as do soldiers to defend our greater freedoms.

And that speech, I would say, exemplifies what I believe and why I have such pride in our country as well. Roxy is like the 21-year-old version of Claudia Joy and I think they are kind of two sides of each other. They recognize each other in a sense...they recognize at the core that they both share a great passion and have a great heart and speak their truth and that is a similarity between them, even so one is Harvard educated and one dropped out of high school.

An Army wife talks Army Wives

And for many of us military wives, there is an unspoken code, so to speak, about just that very thing. This is what seemed to really dig at the core of the series for me in the beginning that I had a tough time rationalizing. How are these wives connected? It's not common place to see a specialist's wife chumming with the colonel's wife on any Army post I've been to recently. I'm not saying that it doesn't happen, but I needed a little more help from the creator to put it to me straight.

Katherine Fugate: Well, many's interesting how we get the conversations between officer and enlisted wives and how they would never meet or spend time with one other. And every time that's said, there's someone else who chimes in with, "That's an old cliché and it's not like that anymore..." and that people are much more equal.

But my answer to all of that is, if you watch the pilot, none of these women were friends. Only Claudia Joy and Denise had a natural friendship and no one else. But this event of having the birth of the twins, hold these desperate people together and bonded them together over one incident and forged them to remain in each others' lives for the next episode when they had to give the twins away and keep the secret hidden. Otherwise, they never would have come together. They didn't organically say "Let's hang-out together" -- they were brought together by more of a divine intervention which was birth. And that's why the pilot show is titled, "A Tribe is Born". There is a deliberate reason why these women have become friends and chose to remain friends because of the birth of two children...witnessing that and being a part of it...that's a pretty big incident.

It is a unique situation, indeed. As the wife of a Warrant Officer, I couldn't help but notice the absence of the corps in the series. So, yes, I asked Katherine about the different choices of ranks and structure, as well as hinted towards having at least one WO make an entrance at some point:

Katherine Fugate: Well, we kind of bring that up (with the character/husband of Denise) Frank Sherwood who is a Major now and he is an officer, but he didn't go through Officers Candidate School in a traditional way. He is one of the few people who was enlisted first and through sheer work and determination made it as an officer.

There's also Pamela Moran who's married to Chase, who's now become a member of Delta Force Special Ops, but first, he was an enlisted Sergeant and so she has two worlds too. She didn't become an officer's wife but she came into Delta Force and that's done secretive with their own world and their own friends. So she has a whole new set of issues to deal with. So we do kind of mix them all up with different perspectives.

An Army wife talks Army Wives

Speaking of mixing things up...I was so upset with the bombing of the Hump Bar at the end of the first season! I wondered if this was what viewers could expect in terms of character changes in the future. I don't think they make enough tissues for me to handle another season finale like that for season two!

Katherine Fugate: Fort Marshall is really the base and families will come in and out's much like ER or any other show where you have a natural turnover...which is what your life is about anyway, but it is what will give the series longevity and make it interesting so we can always bring in new people. We're not going to be stuck with the same core characters all the time just by definition of the lives that you lead.

Hmmm... okay. She didn't say she was getting rid of I'll have to keep watching and waiting! Since Katherine compared the show to ER, I took the opportunity to ask her about comparisons in general. Plus, I've also read that Army Wives has been matched up to other shows such as Desperate Housewives, CSI, those kinds of dramas, so I wondered how she personally felt about it. Did she mind being measured up to other top shows? I mean, she has one of the highest rated television shows on Lifetime to date. It can't be that bad!

Katherine Fugate: Well, I think being compared to any great show is always a compliment. All of those shows are very successful and well written with a very specific voice, so it's always an honor. However, I think the closest comparison I've heard and read about is one with a comparison to the show, Thirty Something...and I actually see that because it's very much about the interpersonal relationships, it's very honest and it's how people stay together. In this particular venue, it is how you stay together under this big umbrella of Army wives with life and death issues, but the core is still about the relationships and the heart within. That felt the most true to me...I think it's always good if people! 

Yes, I agree. To be recognized is great. And that's what I personally saw "Army Wives" as being that kind of acknowledgment for the spouses, we also serve, just in a different way. I recognize that it is a drama, but I also appreciate that there's someone out there trying to tell a story about our lives, too. We seem so much more interesting, somehow! Seriously, it is the soldiers are on the frontlines fighting the battles, but the spouses have their own frontlines to cover, and they can be just as treacherous. Sometimes, those battles are never-ending and others result in a sacrifice that is only heartfelt by those who have lived its daily uncertainty and pain.

I asked Katherine at the end of the interview if she had anything that she'd like to personally say to the viewers of the show. 

Katherine Fugate: I don't know if I have the bravery that Army wives do. I think it's such a difficult thing to love your partner so much you'll let him or her leave for two years at a time and potentially die because they believe so much in their country, to fight for millions of strangers…when you just want them home with you and your family. I think that is such a gift and it takes an incredible amount of strength and sacrifice and love, an incredible amount of love, for somebody to let them do that, to raise their hand and go forward and leave you behind. That, to me, is just awe-inspiring. I personally don't know if I could do it. I suppose if you fell in love, you'd find a way...but I think that is very, very difficult road. We all owe you guys a great debt of gratitude for that.

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