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Military spouses react to Netflix’s new ‘Purple Hearts’ movie

Based on the book by Tess Wakefield, the romance is drawing mixed emotions from the military community.
/ Source: TODAY

By the time my husband left for Afghanistan, the exact date and time had changed so frequently that I was exhausted by the ping pong of emotions it had created. My nerves were shot and as the days dragged on, I had grown irritable. I just wanted the deployment to start, so we could get it over with and I was emotionally detached in an effort to protect my own feelings.

When the day came, we woke up at 4 a.m. to start the drop-off process, and said goodbye to each other in the dark where no one could see my tear-streaked face or the bags under my eyes.

Kait Hanson and her husband, Dane, the morning he deployed.
Kait Hanson and her husband, Dane, the morning he deployed.Kait Hanson

It was a far cry from how movies and television market military life, and Netflix's new "Purple Hearts" is no exception.

Starring Sofia Carson as Cassie Salazar and Nicholas Galitzine as Luke Morrow, the movie, based off the book by Tess Wakefield, hit the streaming service on July 29.

In the film, Cassie, a waitress and musician, devises a plan with Luke, a Marine getting ready to leave for Iraq, to get married before his deployment so the couple can reap the military benefits. They end up developing feelings for each other, naturally.

"The military spouse world is in a tizzy over the new Netflix movie 'Purple Hearts', a movie where a girl and a Marine get married to get her healthcare and to get him out of barracks and they end up in love," Emma Tighe, an army spouse in Kansas, shared in a now-viral Facebook post. "AKA a normal Tuesday on any military spouse Facebook group."

Tighe used the movie's poster, which shows an intimate moment between Cassie and Luke kissing through a bus window as he leaves, to accompany her words in the post, where she continued with a comical take on the reality of a deployment drop-off.

"Anyone who is a military spouse knows that the only acceptable way to send your husband off to war is in a messy bun, PJs, puffy eyes and a bad attitude because it’s the third time you’ve dropped him off after the unit forgot to schedule a bus or plane or something is missing or someone is missing or just because they said so," she wrote.

She continued, "It is now 3 a.m., you’ve said goodbye 8 times, and it becomes a tuck and roll situation as you dust off the Taco Bell wrappers y’all chowed down in the parking lot. Accuracy matters y’all."

Tighe told TODAY that when she made the post she had only seen the trailer, but has since watched the entire movie.

"I have a really hard time with military movies," she said. "They either hit too close to home or they’re so far away from it (that) it’s hard to watch. This was a good movie. I won’t take from that. The actors were wonderful, but the dialogue was not the best."

Emma Tighe and husband
Emma Tighe and her husband share a selfie before a deployment.Courtesy Emma Tighe

Tighe has been a military spouse for 11 years and chronicles her experiences on the Facebook page "Rolling Along."

"I did not feel like ('Purple Hearts') embodies the military spouse experience, but to be fair, that’s not what the story is about," she said. "It’s good for what it is, a chick flick, but I won’t be recommending it."

At time of publication, the post had racked up over 1,300 comments and more than 7,200 shares with military spouses around the world weighing in.

Tighe said she isn't surprised by the post resonating.

"What connects military spouses is the 'We'll laugh about this someday' moments. We all have them and they often sound very similar. It doesn’t matter what branch, rank, or location," she said. "There’s something really special and unifying of the military spouse experience, and it’s really fun to try to tap in to. We’re all looking for connection and to be understood. It hasn’t been found in Hollywood."

“There’s something really special and unifying of the military spouse experience, and it’s really fun to try to tap in to. We’re all looking for connection and to be understood. It hasn’t been found in Hollywood.”

Emma Tighe

Maxine Clegg, an Air Force spouse in Texas, told TODAY that there is little romance in drop-offs.

"It's almost like your marriage deactivates two days before they deploy," Clegg, who has experienced four deployments with her husband, said. "They spend those few days before they leave packing and going through their checklists, and you’re not on that. It’s a whole thing."

And a military homecoming brings its own obstacles.

"It’s almost like you need to re-establish your entire relationship," Clegg said. "You start over, because life has gone on at home and you’ve developed your own schedule and routine. They have to find their place again."

Navy spouse Alyssa Clark told TODAY the movie is "definitely glamorized."

"I wore a nice dress to make us both feel better, but the reality is I got in Codi’s car and drove to the gym and worked out for a long time to help myself to release some emotions," Clark said.

Alyssa Clark and her husband, Codi, on deployment day.
Alyssa Clark and her husband, Codi, on deployment day.Alyssa Clark

Diana Phillips, a military wife in Tennessee, said she could relate to Tighe's thoughts on multiple drop-offs due to delays or cancellations.

"There were always so many tears," Phillips told TODAY of her husband's deployment drop-offs. "But I was self-conscious not wanting to be seen by anyone else."

Carrie Huston, an Army spouse in Kentucky, can relate to Phillips' sentiments.

"I freak out and sob uncontrollably exactly two days before he leaves. Then on the day of departure we do a 'quick like a Band-aid' hug and kiss and that’s that," Huston told TODAY. "We don’t want a big public spectacle that won’t make either of us feel better, but we usually have a letter for one another to read once we’ve parted."

For Army spouse Megan Augustine, dropping her husband off for his most recent deployment was a day she "hated more than anything."

"I couldn’t even muster a 'messy bun.' It was 5 a.m. and we’d only gone to bed at 3 a.m. Just a look of utter despair while trying to be strong for my kids, who were at home sleeping and would wake up a few hours later to find their daddy gone for one year," she told TODAY.

Megan Augustine and her husband, who initiated their last selfie before he deployed.
Megan Augustine and her husband, who initiated their last selfie before he deployed.Megan Augustine

Augustine's husband left in July 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I came home to an empty coffee pot and just sobbed until my kids woke up like it was any other day," she said. "Life does go on after all."

Michelle Ward, who has been a military spouse for ten years, told TODAY that she hasn't watched "Purple Hearts."

"I haven’t brought myself to watch it, because most of these types of movies are cringe-worthy and not the reality of milspouse life," Ward said.

Other military spouses like Bailey Cummins, currently living with her family in Germany, enjoyed the film.

"Every military spouse is different so their experiences will be different, too," she said. "The really sad reality is many spouses do marry for benefits — maybe not a contract marriage like in the movie, but choosing to marry someone they have a connection with faster than normal because of things like needing health insurance or wanting to live together but the soldier is enlisted and can’t move out of the barracks unless married."