Face of Defense: Military Couple Finds Ways to Be Together
By Army Sgt. Daniel Nichols
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, April 14, 2009 June 6, 1998, the 54th anniversary of D-Day, probably was a day like any other that summer. There’s a good chance it was sunny in a small town in New York state outside of Fort Drum, where two young Army captains met for their own rendezvous with destiny.
Army Lt. Col. Hailey Clancy, left, and her husband, Army Maj. Michael Clancy, share a laugh while flying to Camp Striker, Iraq, Aug. 8, 2008. The couple has served two deployments to Iraq together. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
A month later, they went on a date to see “Saving Private Ryan.” Eleven years later, Lt. Col. Hailey Clancy, of Mesa, Ariz., and Maj. Michael Clancy of Bronx, N.Y., are happily married and serving together as part of the 1st Armored Division’s 2nd “Iron” Brigade Combat Team. They have been deployed to Iraq for a year.
Like most military couples, Hailey Clancy, who serves as the brigade’s logistics officer, and Michael Clancy, the 40th Engineer Battalion plans and operations officer in charge and the brigade engineer, have not always been able to stay together, but try to as much as possible.
“We dated for about five years before we got married,” they both said together -- not in unison, but with the familiarity of a story told more than once, a story that consisted of being stationed in different places throughout the next five years and spending lots of time on the highway each weekend to see each other.
Two years after they met, Hailey Clancy left Fort Drum to attend graduate school at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Michael Clancy stayed behind for a year and moved even farther away for a job as an active Army advisor to a reserve component unit in Schukyll County, Pa.
“For about three years, we were two-and-a-half hours apart by driving,” Michael Clancy said. “We kind of leapfrogged each other: she went to grad school, I went to Pennsylvania, she went to West Point, then I went to West Point,” he added.
In the summer of 2002, Hailey Clancy moved to West Point, N.Y., to take a position as an instructor in the chemistry and life science department at the U.S. Military Academy.
“We had Interstate 81 pretty much memorized,” Michael Clancy said with a laugh, talking about a highway that runs north and south from New York to Pennsylvania and beyond.
In early 2003, Michael, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy 10 years prior, was assigned to an engineer duty of constructing the new gymnasium at the academy, and at last the couple was together again. After three years of long-distance correspondence and weekend drives, they were engaged for six months, then were married July 12, 2003 on the USMA campus.
Although distance hadn’t kept them too far apart for most of their time before marriage, it wasn’t much more than a year after they were married that Operation Iraqi Freedom began and required one of them to deploy to Iraq.
“We met right after I had just gotten back from Bosnia in 1998,” Hailey Clancy said. “So the whole time that we were dating, we weren’t deployed. But as soon as we got married, between the two of us, we’ve been deployed to Iraq five times.”
Being flexible with assignments and volunteering to deploy together has enabled the couple to be together for most of the last five years. The first deployment, however, was solo, and Michael Clancy left for Iraq in 2004 while his wife stayed behind at West Point.
“I lived that life of being the person back home when your husband’s deployed and you’re doing those 15-minute phone calls at night,” she said. “Sometimes it’s just frustrating, because you’re like, ‘What is it like there?’ and he doesn’t want to talk about Iraq because he’s tired, but I want to understand better what it’s like where he is.”
After Michael returned from his first tour in Iraq, the couple moved to the 3rd Corps Support Command in Wiesbaden, Germany. Michael Clancy was able to enjoy a short five months of dwell time before they both packed up with 3rd COSCOM and headed back downrange. To them, it was just all part of what they needed to do to stay together as much as possible -- something that Michael Clancy said he believes is important for any military couple.
“I would advise other military couples to do whatever you can to stay together, because you’ll never know when in the future you might be forced apart,” he said. “So if you’re given an option that allows you to stay together, then take advantage of that opportunity and stay together.”
After their deployment with 3rd COSCOM, the Clancys moved southwest to Baumholder and joined the ranks of the Iron Brigade in June 2007. In April 2008, they found themselves in Iraq together again, this time working closer than ever before.
“This time we‘ve worked together a lot,” Hailey Clancy said. “I’m the S-4; he’s the engineer, so all of the basing issues we’ve worked on together. Professionally, we spend a lot of time together. People probably think we’re talking about personal stuff, but 90 percent of the time, we’re talking about base closures or base transfers.”
“It’s a little weird sometimes when we get mad at each other professionally,” Michael Clancy said with a smile.
“You have to be able to separate the personal and professional, but it’s impossible to separate them entirely,” he added. “I mean, my best friend is on the brigade staff, so I get to know what’s going on in the brigade building.”
“And I get a good idea of how things are perceived down at the units,” Hailey Clancy said. “I get an honest opinion from somebody.”
The perks of being deployed with your spouse are great, to be sure, but not entirely without their drawbacks, the Clancys said.
“It’s nice because we have no roommate issues,” Hailey Clancy said with a smile. “Emotionally, it’s easier, but technically it’s harder. There’s no one back in the rear to ship you stuff or manage your stuff. Our car is in storage. All of our bills are forwarded to Iraq, so all of our paperwork we have to handle down here, because there’s no one back there taking care of business for us,” she said.
They both plan on staying in the military, and have worked out new assignments near each other in New York. Beyond the next assignment, they said, they continue to plan to stay together as much as possible while furthering their Army careers.
“I think with dual-military couples, you have to choose either to stay together or go for those assignments you’d really like to have,” Michael Clancy said. “If we had both wanted our ideal assignments, we wouldn’t be together. You have to take whatever you can to be together.”
(Army Sgt. Daniel Nichols serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 1st Armored Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)