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Drama and authenticity

Call her an over-achiever, or just call her a typical Army wife. During the past few months, Tanya Biank finished writing her second book, had her second child, served as a consultant on “Army Wives” for Lifetime and now is preparing for her next PCS.

She also visited the Charleston, S.C., set of  “Army Wives,” which was based on Biank’s first book, “Army Wives: The Unwritten Code of Military Marriage.” She was there to film a cameo appearance for the show’s upcoming 100th episode, to air this summer. In a previous season, Tanya made a cameo alongside the vice president’s wife.

Perhaps typical isn’t quite the word for her, but when I asked Tanya when she filmed the episode with Jill Biden, she responded in a familiar way.

“Let me see, we were living at Fort Stewart, and my husband was deployed at the time, so it must have been …” She still couldn’t pin down the exact date, but who can blame her? A lot has happened since then in her real life as an Army wife.

Tanya spoke by phone from her home on Carlisle Barracks, Pa., her little daughter, Violet, on her lap as we talked.

The original “Army Wives” cast has been stationed at fictional Fort Marshall for six television seasons, but Tanya has moved five times in her eight years as an Army wife. She grew up as an Army brat and claims an insider’s perspective in her writing.

Her sister, an Army colonel, was part of the inspiration for Tanya’s latest book, “Undaunted: The Real Story of America’s Servicewomen in Today’s Military,” to be released in February.

Like her first book, it’s nonfiction, telling the real stories of four women. Unlike the subjects of the first book, these women are all active duty.

The women in the new book range in rank from junior enlisted to major general. Tanya said she’s intrigued by the choices and sacrifices these women have made to create successful military careers.

“I’m looking at their professional and personal challenges, from the combat zone to the home front. Marriage, pregnancy, motherhood, their life goals … ”

She was interrupted by a timely coo from 8-month-old Violet. I asked Tanya if she would recommend a military career for her daughter.

Tanya and her husband, a Citadel graduate, have already paved the way, listing their son Jack, 5, and soon Violet as Citadel legacies.

“They have a spot saved for them,” said Tanya, if they choose to take it. “Who knows what the world will look like by the time they’re old enough to make that decision.”

Military life has certainly changed in recent years, as Tanya’s life has changed since her first book.

She was a reporter covering a series of military spouse murders at Fort Bragg, N.C., when the idea took shape in 2002. She wanted to tell the real story of military wives.

“I just wanted to write a book and get it published. I never thought of any possibilities beyond that,” Tanya said, but she is pleased with the results, including “Army Wives” on television.

“I’m very proud of the work that’s been done on the show and how it has evolved and grown over the years,” she said.

“Sometimes critics might say ‘There’s all these outrageous things that happen,’ ” said Tanya. “A lot of times those things are not so far off base in real military life.”

The challenge for her as a consultant for the show, she said, is maintaining authenticity along with the drama.

Meanwhile, in Tanya’s real Army life, when we spoke she was waiting — in quarters slated for destruction — for a final packout date for her move to Virginia.

“Since they’re tearing down our housing the week of July first, we will definitely be gone before then,” she predicted.

Drama and authenticity.

Oh yeah, she’s good.
 

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