Military Families Tired Of Deployments, Separation

Georgie Hanlin is the wife of an Army officer in Afghanistan on his sixth deployment. Her husband is a company commander with the Second Infantry Division's Stryker Brigade, which has had dozens of fatalities since deploying in July. Hanlin talks to Renee Montagne about what President Obama's new Afghan strategy might mean for her family.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The president's new Afghanistan strategy will inevitably mean more deployments for troops who've already served in America's wars. And it will mean families at home coping with their absence. Georgie Hanlin is married to an Army captain who's currently on his sixth deployment, this time in Afghanistan's Southern province of Kandahar. Max Hanlin is a company commander with the Second Infantry Division's Stryker Brigade. More than two dozen members of the brigade have been killed since they deployed in July. Georgie Hanlin says the separation is hard, but she was pleased with what the president had to say.

Ms. GEORGIE HANLIN: I also want what all of the military has been doing overseas to be successful because the approval rating, now especially, is so low, which is�

MONTAGNE: You mean the approval rating for the war?

Ms. HANLIN: For the war, yeah. And I think that for me, hearing him validate our purpose in Afghanistan - you know, essentially saying, no this is not going to be seen as some colossal mistake - you know, that really resonated with me, as an Army wife.

MONTAGNE: And what kind of reaction are you hearing, from other military families, to the president's Afghanistan plan?

Ms. HANLIN: You know, I know people who are tired - tired of the deployments, tired of the separation and the danger. And I know people who are very supportive and who honor what the soldiers do. And I feel like it's very normal and natural to feel both of those things because - I mean, my husband's in a combat situation, so there is danger all around him. You know, he's an infantry officer; they're in the Kandahar province; he's in the Arghandab River Valley, which is, you know, heavily populated by the Taliban. So, you think about these things every single day.

MONTAGNE: You are living - not on a base. You are living off-base now. You have, though, I understand, lived on base during some of your husband's previous deployments. What is the difference?

Ms. HANLIN: You know, the difference is - right now, I'm living in San Francisco and my husband I have a son, a baby son, and so I decided to move back to my hometown of San Francisco for the year while he's deployed. The city, in and of itself, is pretty, you know, war doesn't really come in, even much in a conversation here. I can go through an entire day without thinking that our country is at war if it weren't my husband who is over there.

And I think when you live on a base, it's everyone's life. You know, people are in uniform around you. So, they know your life, you know, they get you.

MONTAGNE: You are teaching at a school there in San Francisco. You run into a lot of people every day - kids and fellow teachers and parents - wondering if there's a specific moment where it has struck you how different your situation is, having your husband serving over in Kandahar, than that of the people around you.

Ms. HANLIN: I think what I've tried to do is sort of bring a little bit of my world to them. And I'm working with a few of the schools - writing to the troops overseas. And in doing so, learning a little bit about what goes on for military families, and for men and women in the military. I've really enjoyed that aspect of working with children who don't necessarily even know that we are at war.

And it's very interesting because when I lived in Savannah and when I lived in Virginia, I mean, it was these children's lives. You know, they understood, they knew, they saw soldiers in uniform roaming around the streets. The dichotomy - I mean, it's significant for me, really, just knowing what these children in different areas know.

MONTAGNE: When you met your husband, you were not from a military family yourself.

Ms. HANLIN: Correct. I was not.

MONTAGNE: So, you actually know what it feels like to be, in a sense, in that other world.

Ms. HANLIN: Yeah, you know what, it's funny. My husband and I met - I had been teaching in a public school in the South Bronx - and even when I returned back to San Francisco after having done that, I sort of felt estranged from the world in which I grew up. And I met Max, who had been in Iraq for nine months, and he, too, felt that same estrangement.

And ultimately, that's sort of what brought us together, our two different experiences. So, when we got married and moved to Savannah and he started deploying, I thought, well, you know, I'll teach, he'll deploy, he'll come back - you know, it'll be normal. And I think the joke was on me because it has not been normal.

You know, it's been a very serious - almost four years - for me, and for my husband. And I appreciate, sort of, how it's challenged me because I'm so much more globally aware, and I know so much more, how precious life is than I ever would have before.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: Georgie Hanlin is a schoolteacher and writer, and the wife of Army Captain Max Hanlin, now deployed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

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