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Wife writes about the joys and stresses of loving a man in uniform

By DANIELLE L. KIRACOFE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 10, 2009

Lily Burana is unlike most military wives. A writer and author, she was a stripper and an ex-punk when she met her man in uniform.

So how exactly did she become, in her words, a Global War on Terror bride, marrying an Army officer shortly before his deployment to Iraq?

Simple: She fell in love.

In her new book, "I Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other Battles," Burana catalogs her struggle to find her own way to be a military wife — fighting the image of perfection, military wife yet struggling in the role. Meanwhile, she had to battle the minefields of changing addresses, deployment, post-traumatic stress disorder (her husband’s and her own) and her father’s death. Ultimately, she found the help she needed and saved herself and her marriage.

She also found a way to serve military spouses — in her own unique way — by creating Operation Bombshell. During a two-hour event, Burana teaches spouses a burlesque routine. So far, she’s only been able to do these in the States, but she’s working to schedule one overseas soon.

I met with her in a Northern Virginia Starbucks, where we chatted about the book, military life and her tips for other military spouses.

On the book:

"I definitely wrote it with the modern time-pressed woman in mind. I don’t want it to be a hard read. I don’t want it to be something it’s going to take days to get through. I want it to have that pacing of someone who has a full life."

On being able to bare all in the book:

"I think what made me feel like I wanted to be as honest as I was is so many families are struggling with PTSD on some level right now. There’s a lot of mainstream media attention for it, but most of that mainstream media attention is what is this disorder and what do we do. It’s these very sad stories and … anecdotes that don’t offer any solution. And since I am able to — thank God — have a treatment plan that worked for me and worked for my husband and that made me feel like I have to tell this story."

She feels her book could save someone else’s life or marriage, which "Took away some of the potential moments where I’m red in the face."

Adjustment to being a military spouse:

"I really felt I had to learn a lot very quickly, very short steep learning curve. I think I could have done it better, but I did the best I could. Like any wife."

Best advice she’s gotten on being a military spouse:

"I think the best piece of advice, that I got from the FRG (Army Family Readiness Group) at a pre-deployment briefing, was: Expect an emotional roller coaster. Expect to be irrationally angry sometimes. Stress manifests in ways that are very surprising. Sometimes you’ll be hyperactive and hyper organized and …. And then the next day you won’t want to get out of bed.…

"I think you can’t underestimate no matter how much you may keep your life together on the day to day, emotionally just expect the unexpected. And that’s OK."

She adds that you shouldn’t have to feel like you have to be the perfect wife. "Because, you know what? You’re not getting a grade for that. Your job is to keep your family safe, keep your country safe, and make sure your [spouse’s] needs are met as best as you can and take care of yourself. They’re not handing out a blue ribbon when he comes off the plane. Just do what you got to do."

She also recommends making sure spouses do one self-caring thing every day. "Even if you have to move the kid’s pack and play into the bathroom so you can get a hot bath for yourself — 10 minutes of self-care can do a lot of good."

Advice for a new military spouse:

• Read all the books: "There’s probably going to be 20 things in … them that are going to be useful to you. And they are great as far as the how-tos. Definitely need to read ‘Service Etiquette’ so you can properly learn how to address people, how to write a thank you note. ... Get your own correspondence stationery because you will want to write thank you notes and get well cards.… Courtesies matter a lot in the military, and they count tenfold. People are very grateful to be on somebody else’s mind."

• Find an online community: "Get advice, hear from women who are living the life the same time you are."

• "Its a small military – gossip is its own reward. In other words, I don’t recommend it."


How’s the book?

"I Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other Battles" is, at its core, a love story – written by a woman who ultimately understands and embraces "for better or worse" when marrying a man in the military.

And while the better parts are funny and uplifting, the worse comes in the worst of ways.

Burana’s memoir on being married to an Army officer probably should have been subtitled "How We Survived PTSD — and Lived to Tell the Tale."

It’s a typical GenX-style book – Burana bares it all. She confesses what it was like to be left behind in a new community when her husband deployed to Iraq and what happened when he came home and both of them were diagnosed with PTSD. She is very honest about the steps they took separately to cope with it and ultimately survive it.

It’s a book that’s touching, both heartbreaking and inspiring, and surprisingly funny.

Her writing style is quick and direct, but the book sometimes jumps topics too quickly, which can be disorienting.

Burana at times takes herself very seriously as well, which almost makes her confessional style too blunt. But she can tell a good story and the fast pace will keep you reading until the end.

— Danielle L. Kiracofe


Advice for spouses?

What’s the best advice you have ever received as a military spouse? Let us know and you could win a copy of "I Love a Man in Uniform" autographed by Lily Burana. Click here until May 31 to enter.

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