NPR Story
3:44 am
Mon November 19, 2012

Military Moral Code

Originally published on Tue November 20, 2012 9:38 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Marital fidelity is a sensitive subject for many in the military. Relationships are often strained by distance, frequent moves, the dangers of war. Gen. David Petraeus' admission that he had an extramarital affair has led some military families to reflect on the difficulties of keeping their personal relationships whole. Reporter Joanna Richards spoke with families from the Army's 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, in upstate New York.

JOANNA RICHARDS, BYLINE: Around Fort Drum, Gen. Petraeus' admission has soldiers and their families thinking about whether military members should be held to a higher standard than civilian spouses. Second Lt. Seth Prosser was having breakfast at a busy McDonald's near post, before work. He says civilians shouldn't have unrealistic expectations about members of the military.

SECOND LT. SETH PROSSER: I think when people look at soldiers or Marines or airmen - or whatever, they see them in their nice uniforms and think that they're, you know, a cut above, maybe. But, you know, soldiers are just people, too, and make mistakes.

RICHARDS: Fallible or not, though, Prosser says military leaders should set an example for those beneath them. When they don't, he says, they have to face the consequences. That's the view, too, of Maj. Miles Trudell, who was having a beer with other officers at a popular bar in Sackets Harbor, a scenic village on Lake Ontario; about half an hour from Fort Drum. He stresses the need for good order, and discipline, in the military.

MAJ. MILES TRUDELL: It doesn't matter, at all, what your personal opinion is. We have standards, and we have moral values that we adhere not for just ourselves; for the country at large.

RICHARDS: Not only should military leaders set an example for their troops, Trudell says, but everyone in the military should set an example for the rest of society.

TRUDELL: I can't tell you how many times I've been approached by the general populace and - said thank you. When I hear that, I know for a fact that I'm held to a higher standard. We represent a higher cause.

RICHARDS: Army wife Sadie Wells is mostly concerned with the tough practicalities of maintaining a marriage, in the face of the many challenges military life throws at couples. Married for under a year, she's one month into her husband's first deployment, in Afghanistan. At her home just outside Fort Drum's main gate, Wells says all the time apart can bring worries about temptations - like when her husband, Cole Wells, was in training to become a medic.

SADIE WELLS: He was with a lot of girls; and they were out partying, and I wasn't living with him. And it was like, uh, please don't - you know, go out and flirt with these girls. And at the same time, it was like, I'm sure he's worrying the same thing about me.

RICHARDS: Wells says her husband is deployed with an all-male platoon, which eases her mind. But when he first got to Fort Drum, he worked with a lot of women. Wells says she knew them, and she trusted her husband; but the idea of them spending two weeks at a time in the field together, still made her ill at ease.

WELLS: I would never do anything, and I know my husband wouldn't. But I could understand where, like, wives and husbands that aren't as secure in their relationship, where that would become a major problem. And so with my husband being in an all-male platoon, it's like, OK, check that off my list. I don't have to worry about that. I mean...

RICHARDS: During her husband's deployment, Wells says the couple is trying to keep their relationship strong, by staying in touch as often as possible. She's a good pen pal, writing to Cole every day. And he gets a care package at least once a week. Their daily Skyping is interrupted only if he's out on a mission.

For NPR News, I'm Joanna Richards in Watertown, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.