Army Wives: The Unwritten Code of Military Marriage

Tanya Biank Army Wives goes beyond the sound bites and photo ops of military life to bring readers into the hearts and homes of today's military wives.

Biank tells the story of four typical Army wives who, in a flash, find themselves in extraordinary circumstances that ultimately force them to redefine who they are as women and wives. This is a true story about what happened when real life collided with army convention.

Army Wives is a groundbreaking narrative that takes the reader beyond the Army's gates, taking a close look at the other woman--the Army itself--and how its traditions, rules and war-time realities deeply impact marriage and home life.

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Army Wives TV Show

Tanya appears on an episode of Army Wives!


Army Wives TV Show

"'Army Wives' is a street-smart homage to those who also serve because they stand and wait."
~ New York Times

Army Wives was the basis for Lifetime's hit series Army Wives. Tanya was a consultant to the show, which ran for seven seasons and is one of the five longest-running drama series in basic cable history.

From Life as an Army spouse is never dull, especially for the four women and one man who are the center of this dramatic series from "Grey's Anatomy" executive producer Mark Gordon. They'll face all sorts of challenges in trying to fit in, stay connected with their soldier spouses, and abide by strict military traditions. These characters will form an unlikely alliance as they help one another through the unthinkable, and protect each other's darkest secrets.

» Brooke Shields Joins Lifetime's 'Army Wives' - The Hollywood Reporter - January 24, 2013




Behind The Book

Army Wives is a groundbreaking narrative detailing the complex personal challenges Army wives face, presenting a provocative new look at Army life.  Tanya Biank goes beyond the sound bites and photo ops of military life and shows what it is really like to be an Army wife—from hauling furniture off the rental truck by yourself at a new duty station when your husband is in the field, to comforting your son who wants his dad home from Afghanistan for his fifth birthday—she takes readers into the hearts and homes of today’s military wives.

In the summer of 2002, Army wives were in the headlines after Biank, a military reporter for the Fayetteville Observer, made international news when she broke the story about four Army wives who were brutally murdered by their husbands in the span of six weeks at Fort Bragg, an Army post that is home to the Green Berets, Airborne paratroopers, and Delta Force commandos.  By that autumn, Biank, an Army brat herself, realized the still untold story of Army wives lay in the ashes of that tragic and sensationalized summer.  She knew the truth—wives were the backbone of the Army.  They were strong—not helpless—and deserved more than the sugarcoating that often accompanied their stories in the media.

Army Wives tells the story of four typical Army wives, who, in a flash, find themselves neck-deep in extraordinary circumstances that ultimately force them to redefine who they are as women and Army wives.  In this fascinating and meticulously researched account, Biank takes the reader past the Army’s gates, where everyone has a role to play, rules are followed, discipline is expected, perfection praised, and perception often overrides reality.  Biank explores what happens when real life collides with Army convention.

Biank describes what it means to be a wife and mother in a subculture that is in a constant state of readiness for war.  In this hard-hitting and powerful book, Biank takes a close look at the other woman—the Army itself—and its impact on wives, marriages, and home life.  This story of strength and perseverance is an eye-opener for those who have never experienced military life and an anthem to those women who each day live the “unwritten code."



Excerpts from Army Wives

(From Introduction)

“Where the hell is he?” The coroner should have already arrived. Years of chasing criminals in North Carolina had turned Pennica’s Midwestern accent into a gravelly drawl. Because of his olive-toned skin and black hair, people often mistook Pennica for a Lumbee Indian from nearby Robeson County. He grew up in a Sicilian family in Cleveland, where he attended Catholic mass every day. He became a Southern Baptist with an affinity for vinegar-based barbecue, boiled potatoes, and slaw, but his bulky frame never could adjust to the inferno of a windless, southern July afternoon. Pennica kept his arms akimbo, occasionally swatting the mosquitoes and deer flies swarming around his head. Sweat dribbled on his upper lip and seeped through his polo shirt. Acres of spindly longleaf pines, which form a buffer between Fort Bragg and Fayetteville, offered skimpy shade. In Fayetteville, where concrete and asphalt carpet everything, this was the perfect spot to bury a terrible mistake.

(From Chapter 2)

To me, Fayetteville has always been like the wise guy perched on the stool at the end of the bar night after night, you know, the one with the leathery skin and the scratchy voice from a lifetime of smokes. Fayetteville is the guy you always see, but never bother to get to know, because you think you’ve already figured his kind out. In truth, it takes time to understand this town. It’s a multi-layered, flesh-and-blood community with war heroes and crooks, garden club socialites and strippers all in close proximity. As Ski would always tell me, “I just like it here, kiddo.”

(From Chapter 3)

Everyone in the 82nd jumped from airplanes, a trait that bonded the bottle washers to the graying generals. The division’s artillery guns, two-and a half-ton trucks, and Humvees exited aircraft the same way the paratroopers did – by parachute.  On my first plane ride with paratroopers late one night high above Fort Bragg, I witnessed what makes these soldiers unique. As the aircraft’s engines slowed down to a rumble, the doors opened. I was now standing on a steel ramp a few feet away, strapped into a harness tethered to the floor. I was close enough to see each face, each set of alert eyes, and each ramrod-straight body before it plunged into a vacuum of darkness. For me it was one of those mystical life moments, the ones you don’t always share. All the things that permeate society, a person’s skin color, status, age, religion, and politics didn’t matter in the belly of that flying tin can. What mattered was trusting the guys around you, completing the mission, keeping everyone safe, and staying alive. Rita knew little about those details, only that her husband was gone a lot.



Book Reviews

“Writing with the objectivity of a seasoned reporter and the intrinsic knowledge of a cultural insider, Tanya Biank’s portrayal of Army wives and Army lives is a compelling account of a military microcosm. Biank's deft storytelling invites the reader into the warrior's world and pulls back a community's camouflage — revealing its pride, its patriotism and its passions.”
--Regina Galvin, Editor in Chief of, a national online magazine and community for military wives and female service members

“Not only is Tanya Biank’s book a fascinating read, but her book, and the television show it inspired, has given military spouses the added benefit of placing us front and center by highlighting the numerous ways in which we serve alongside our husbands.”
--Andi Hurley, Army wife and founder of, a community for military spouses

Editor's Pick: Army Wives is chosen as Editor's Pick in The Assembly Magazine, West Point's Association of Graduates, July/August 2007edition

"...a timely look at the impact of combat and military life on the families the soldiers leave behind."
--The Washington Post

"In Under the Sabers, Tanya Biank invites civilians into the military world, a foreign culture. She introduces us to the true meaning of honor and duty as we see the strains on wives with a spouse serving in a war zone. She richly describes the bonds among military families that serve to support a wife during her spouse’s deployments and simultaneously may limit her autonomy. Under the Sabers shows that military families are both the hidden casualties of war and a resilient group who meet the challenges for growth during every deployment. Tanya Biank helps those of us who work with families of deployed soldiers become better able to understand and serve them"—Dr. Jaine L. Darwin, Psy.D. Harvard professor, Clinical Instructor in Psychology, Harvard Medical School and Co-Director, SOFAR, Strategic Outreach to Families of All Reservists

"Thank you for putting a voice to the hardships and triumphs of this military life."—Tara Crooks, host of Army Wife Talk Radio

"A very realistic and enjoyable read about the pains and pleasures of military life." —

"Tanya Biank captures the atmosphere of military living and the pressure brought to bear on young wives to measure up as partners in their husbands careers. As a writer, Tanya has an advantage growing up as a daughter of a military father. She knows where to look. My memories of my own experience as a bride at Fort Bragg fifty two years ago come to mind as I become involved in the lives of women from many different backgrounds who are dealing with their successes and failures in a variety of ways. We realize there are some who are better equipped to handle their personal conflicts. In many cases these conflicts are beyond their control. In reading this detailed and insightful book we receive some hope in the fact that the military administration has recognized and has taken steps to support both husbands and wives in the future."—Ann Jordan Klunder, National President, The Society of Daughters of the United States Army

“I was raised with the book THE ARMY WIFE by Nancy Shea, which gave us pointers on how to be a good one.  Tanya Biank is certainly not a Nancy Shea author.  She is not telling us what to do, but telling us how it is—or was—at Fort Bragg.  Her experience as a reporter has produced a candid and detailed study of her subjects and a riveting story, certain to engage Army wives of all generations.  The incidents described and the issues surfaced in Ms. Biank’s hard-hitting piece surely will get her readers’ attentions and will cause us to say to each other, ‘Now, what can we do about it?’”—Joanne Patton, the wife of Major General George S. Patton and the daughter-in-law of General George S. Patton, Jr.

“Tanya Biank has written a stunningly detailed, eye-opening account of what it is really like to be an Army wife. Under the Sabers demonstrates that while it is tough to be a soldier, it can be even tougher to be the wife of a soldier. This is a side of Army life that, until now, has escaped public scrutiny.  Under the Sabers should be required reading for every military spouse and all those who are considering marrying into the military.”— Ron Martz, Military affairs correspondent, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and co-author of Heavy Metal: A Tank Company's Battle to Baghdad

“From tragic to bittersweet, this is the untold story of the wives of our Army warriors--a powerful look for civilians and soldiers alike into the lives of women who each day embrace Duty, Honor, Sacrifice.” —W.E.B. Griffin, bestselling author

"Under the Sabers captivates readers with an up close and personal look into the 'real' everyday lives and challenges of Army spouses. Kudos to Ms. Biank for portraying each spouse's story with such heartfelt compassion."—Victoria M. Parham, Host of Military Spouse Talk Radio

“Biank has strong credentials for understanding and explaining army culture: in addition to having been a military reporter, she is the daughter and wife of army officers. Her very readable and thoughtful book delves into a rarely studied segment of the army and should be appreciated by a large general audience.”—Library Journal

“The author of this provocative portrait of modern army wives is herself an army wife and comes from an army family. That combination of experience and insight enhances the value of the book’s depiction of the army-family community. …A good choice for military collections of any size.”--Booklist

“Biank has created a vivid picture of life today as a military spouse.” –Kirkus

“...Biank’s novelistic sense of detail and suspense vividly demonstrates how 'the Army...could bring couples closer together...or it could rip relationships apart.' Army wives cope with unpredictable deployments and struggle to raise children alone, often on small paychecks, in a community both tightknit and sharply judgmental. 'Army wives serve, too,' says Biank - in an institution ambivalent about families. She makes sympathetic both their pride and their tragedies.”—Publishers Weekly

“…a deeply human, touching story.”—U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Assembly Magazine 



Reader Reviews

“Thank you for writing a book that is more true to life than anything I’ve read this far. I’ve enjoyed reading the book and identify so much. I’m currently a Major’s wife having gone thru both of my pregnancies and births of my sons without my husband. After back to back tours in Iraq, we left our beloved Ft Hood and are living in Little Rock – biding our time until we move on to the next station.” ~from an Army wife

“Thank you so much for writing Under the Sabers (Army Wives). It truly touched me. Your writing made everything real and relevant. I am an Army brat too. My father volunteered during Vietnam and was with the 1st Cav. It is nice to see so many others who had the same experiences I did. Again, thank you for you this book. You have reached a lot of people.” ~from an Army brat

“I finally was able to find your book and read it. Absolutely excellent. It made me laugh and it made me cry. You need to write more. You’re an excellent writer that isn’t scared to tell it like it is about something that is so true.” ~from an Army wife

“One of the things I appreciate the most about your book is the sensitivity you have toward our active duty soldiers and their families. Most Americans have no idea the sacrifices our active duty military folks and their families make. Only someone with your experience and insight could have told the story you told. You did a masterful job of describing life in the Army, especially in a combat unit. Thank you for a wonderful read and trip down memory lane. I'll look forward to your next book. You are truly gifted.” ~Duane, retired Lieutenant Colonel, Army Brat and Army father

“I am a fellow Army brat and Army wife I want to thank you for what you do and have done for Army families. Your work is more important now than ever. Army families must be seen, not as a totally segregated, isolated and marginalized group, but as an integral part of America. The families need to be seen, heard, and incorporated into the conscience of our country.” ~Sue, Army wife of 30 years

“Thank you for putting into words what so many people just don't understand. With 5 kids under the age of 8 and my husband deployed right now, your book just blew me away. I found myself saying over and over – I know how that feels or I know someone just like that, etc. Maybe it's silly to write to you, but I just wanted to tell you how much impact your book had on your typical Army wife. I have a list of people I'm going to loan my book to and I want to hurry each of them through it so I can pass it on to the next.” ~Mary, Army wife and Army Brat

“It was wonderful, at long last to read a realistic account of life as an Army wife. Your account is not only accurate but is written with great sensitivity. I truly enjoyed your book. Your book is a treasure!” ~Retired Army wife of 30 years

“Your book, articles and work are important & of great value to those women considering the military way of life. Your book should be in every guidance counselor's office in every high school and college, and in every library, and in every marital/family counselor's hands. DOD & all military services should provide it to new members, promote it on the web under family support, and know that it will help people make better marital decisions, and be better prepared, especially for the family separation issues and living overseas. I commend you for your work and service providing excellent knowledge, based upon real & relevant experience, to US military families and women. You fill a great need.” ~James, retired Air Force major, Air Force Brat and Air Force father and brother

“Just finished your book, Under The Sabers in one day. Haven't cried while reading a book since Isabella Allende's Paula. I cried not just because your writing truly brings these characters to life for readers, but because I live this life. I thank you for chronicling exactly how it feels to be a military wife.” ~Merle, Army chaplain's wife

“Very inspiring and touching!” ~Kim, Department of Defense employee

“I just wanted to thank you for this wonderful book. I was blessed to find your book. There aren't many books out there like yours! I haven't been able to put it down, and it has brought a lot of interesting conversations into our communication. I feel like I'd truly be lost if I had gone about things with my boyfriend without knowing some of the things you talked about in your book.” ~Julie, girlfriend of a deployed soldier

“Just wanted to pass along praise for your book (my husband actually bought the book for me!) Being a newly married officer's wife (and an older wife at that!), I thought it did a great job of portraying different sides (enlisted/officer) with objectivity and without the typical stereotypes. It was an easy read (important for me!) and helped pass the time on a flight across the country recently!” ~Army wife

“What an incredible, touching book you have written! As an army officer's wife, I can completely relate to the stories and characters you have written about. I felt so connected to Andrea Lynne and Rennie, as if my husband and I had attended their Christmas party. The descriptive detail in which you wrote enveloped me and I was left clinging to every word. I finished your book in less than 2 days! All the women you wrote about were not only interesting, strong women, but they exemplified everything an army wife is and should be. Rita, Delores and Andrea Lynne captivated me and I felt like they belonged to my FRG!” ~Katy, Army wife

“I have recently been a military wife for now nearly 3 months and my husband is in South Carolina right now & I read your marvelous book that is just awing me every minute, every thought that these women and men went through. I am so amazed of what military wives went through, it made me cry, made me think, made me think of my husband more & what my future will become and what to prepare for.” ~Blanche, Army wife

“Thank you for expressing a lot of things that needed to be brought to the surface about Army life.” ~Sue, Army brat

“Thank you for writing this fabulous book! I absolutely loved it and recommend it as a required read for all military wives, both new and old. I have experienced many of the emotions and shared all of the joys and sorrows the characters of your book depict.” ~Kim, Special Forces wife

“I loved the flow of the book & how you went from story to story. I learned a lot.” ~Cynthia

“I just finished reading Under the Sabers, what a great book. I read the book in two days. I couldn't put it down.” ~Dana, Army wife

“I just finished your book and I was compelled to write you an email of thanks. Thank you so much for writing such a wonderful book. I am sure I am one of many women who are grateful to you for opening their eyes what life as an Army wife can be.” ~Mogen, Army fiancé