Sunday, November 18, 2012

Review: Married to the Army: Alaska

OWN's Real-Life Army Wives Docu-Series is Emotionally Moving

There's something about the remoteness of Anchorage, Alaska that, despite its beautiful vistas, adds to the chill and fear you're likely to feel as you watch the stories of real-life Army wives unfold on the emotionally moving and well-made Married to the Army: Alaska (OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network - Sunday, 10pm).

On the show, Alaska feels gray, cold and so, so far away. You can't help but feel compassion for the mostly young moms who spend their days alone with their babies, doing laundry, paying the bills, taking care of the home -- and, often, frantically waiting for a car to pull up, or a phone to ring to deliver the bad news from Afghanistan.

Alaska, which premieres tonight, focuses on seven Army wives who the Pentagon gave the show unprecedented access to, including in one episode incredible helmet-cam footage of her husband pounding out hundreds of rounds of ammunition at the enemy. In return, hundreds of rounds directed at him pound the walls and ground just feet away.

Among the wives is Blair, a mom of a young baby. Her husband is gone so often that their son barely recognizes him. You can see on Blair's face that she's terrified of raising a baby on her own, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

Sara is a young, super-perky and yet visibly distraught mom. She is continually picking up the phone to check in with other Army wives, especially when today's incredible everyday technology like Skype goes dark. She's so worried that the Army brass will show up with bad news that she sometimes keeps her front door propped open so she can see them arrive.

Yolanda is the most mature mom and most experienced Army wife. She grew up in a military family and her husband has been in the Army for many years. So many years, in fact, that their grown son is now entering the military. Still, despite Yolanda's experience and cool exterior, she often goes off alone to cry.

Married to the Army: Alaska opens the door on the lives of Army wives that few, if any shows in the past have revealed.

In real life, it's easy to see these young moms and give them words of encouragement or thank their husbands for their service.

But to see their everyday lives behind closed doors is altogether different. It's real, it's un-glamorous and, with that cold, gray Alaska backdrop, it's remote, lonely and a little bit scary.

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