"Veep" star Anna Chlumsky, 33, knows she's blessed. Her boyfriend-now-husband, Shaun So, came home safely from Army service in Afghanistan, and the couple married in 2008. But in an article in Glamour magazine, Chlumsky discusses the lonely life of a military girlfriend, and what it taught her about life and love.
Having a military boyfriend was unusual in Chlumsky's circles, she said. The couple met at the University of Chicago in 2000, and when he later enlisted in the Army Reserve, she was wary but proud.
"Being a family member ... of a serviceman or -woman is a lonely experience," she wrote. "Every military spouse or loved one has, at one time or another, felt as if no one understands what they're going through."
Close friends were supportive; acquaintances, however, didn't always understand.
"The concept of war was so foreign in our cosmopolitan world," Chlumsky writes. "Either people didn't pay attention at all, or they read too much. I'd meet strangers who, upon discovering my boyfriend was in the Army, would look at me like I was living out some eighties romantic comedy, dating a guy from the wrong side of the tracks."
Chlumsky said she was forced to do a lot of explaining — that So was college-educated, that he was doing good through his service, that he shouldn't be judged by what people may think of the U.S. government's policies.
"We'd share our frustrations that the media never wrote about the positive things the military was accomplishing," she wrote. "Nothing about rebuilding some schools or sniffing out some bad guys. Eventually I had to put myself on a news diet. No matter how duplicitous our government's intentions were in entering these wars, I had a loved one doing some good overseas, and that was all that mattered."
Her work helped. Chlumsky was returning to acting after six years away, and she found comfort in the words of the ancient Greek poets. Homer's "Odyssey," in which Odysseus' wife Penelope patiently waits for decades for her husband to return from the Trojan War, was a special comfort. "Her faith and perseverance were everything to me," Chlumsky wrote.
And there were trying times. "Frightening as it was when Shaun's Humvee was hit by an IED, and when he was ambushed in the field, he was able to call me straightaway," she wrote. "I believed he could stay whole and happy if he knew without a doubt that I'd be on the other end of his odyssey, waiting for him with open arms."
Both So and Chlumsky grew while they were separated, she writes, but their relationship held firm, even through a tough transition back to civilian life for So. He was "jumpy," she wrote, sometimes startling awake at night. But the couple's relationship held, and they will forever have a reminder of their own "Odyssey" in the name of their baby girl — Penelope.
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