America Supports You: Actors Honor Real-Life Army Counterparts
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 5, 2007 Reality met Hollywood last month when the cast and crew of the Lifetime Network’s new series “Army Wives” hosted a picnic honoring real Army wives in Charleston, S.C., where the series is filmed.
The cast members of Lifetime TV’s new series “Army Wives” enjoy hosting some of their real-life counterparts for a day of pampering in Charleston, S.C., May 5, 2007. It was a chance for the cast to get a better understanding of the real people they’re representing, cast members said. Courtesy photo by Allison Perkins
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The actors who hosted the May 5 picnic included Catherine Bell, who played Marine Lt. Col. Sarah MacKenzie on the long-running CBS series, “JAG.” She was joined by actress Kim Delaney, who has had recurring roles on several TV series. Brigid Brannagh, Sally Pressman and Roland Burton also attended with their “Army” spouses, actors Brain McNamara, Terry Serpico, Jeremy Davidson, Drew Fuller and Wendy Davis.
“This wasn’t a mandatory, ‘You have to show up for this,’” Regina Galvin, editor of CinCHouse.com, said. “The actors were very interested in really hearing the experiences of these women and where they’re coming from.
“There was genuine respect, mutual respect, for what the actors were doing and also for what the Army wives were doing in holding down that home front,” she said.
The event, which included pampering for the real-life wives from North Carolina and Kansas, provided an opportunity for Lifetime to publicize its new series. More importantly, however, it allowed the network to bring awareness to Operation Homefront, a troop-support group founded by a military spouse, Galvin said.
Lifetime accomplished this through a short film called “Wives on the Homefront.” The film, which runs just over 11 minutes, gives voice to the challenges wives face and their feelings about facing those challenges alone. It also allowed for the cast members to reflect on what they learned during their day with the wives.
“Not enough people know what the wives and families of our troops do and how strong they are and how much support they give our troops,” Bell said.
Davis agreed. “These are the women who are really what I consider to be unsung heroes,” she said. “These are the women who are raising the children; they’re holding down the fort at home.”
Jane Biter, wife Army Staff Sgt. Robert Biter, currently serving in Afghanistan, is one of those unsung heroes. She is raising her 7-year-old son and 5- and 2-year-old daughters.
“It’s hard having to be both Mommy and Daddy,” she said. “But it’s workable.”
The film also included comments from Stefani Pelkey, a former Army captain, whose husband, also an Army captain, took his life after returning from service in Iraq. “When he came back he was not the same happy-go-lucky person as he was before,” Pelkey said. “He was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (and) unfortunately, he was not able to get that help when he needed it.”
Pelkey now is a contributor to Operation Homefront’s online community, CinCHouse.com, a community of military spouses offering support in all areas of military life. As a representative of Operation Homefront’s Wounded Warrior Wives program, she works to help other military spouses identify signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and where to find help.
The new program helps wives of wounded servicemembers navigate the many challenges they may face.
Operation Homefront and CinCHouse.com are members of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.
The network of support that the wives offer each other impressed the cast.
“They really look to each other,” Fuller said. “It’s the best support group I’ve ever seen.”
Missy Reese, an Army wife, said she can always count on other Army wives when she needs anything, and other wives can count on her. “Whatever I need, or whatever they need, we’re always there,” she said. “It’s like a pot of support.”
To further express their support and appreciation for the real-life Army wives and the work of Operation Homefront, the cast members helped the wives pack care packages. The boxes were put together to fill orders Operation Homefront received through its “eCarePackage” program.
Through this program, visitors to the Operation Homefront Web site can choose items to fill a care package for a servicemember for just the cost of the shipping and handling.
“Wives on the Homefront” originally aired June 3 on Lifetime TV, the same day as the premiere of “Army Wives.” In addition, to the TV program, Lifetime TV is offering blogs from four military spouses, three of whom also contribute to CinCHouse.com.