“Married to the Army: Alaska” follows the families of deployed soldiers as they struggle to carry on in their daily lives while their spouses fight for our country.
The show began as a concept when Stephanie Noonan Drachkovitch of 44 Blue Productions began her quest to bring it to television.
“I’m an Army brat,” Drachkovitch explained, “My dad was career military for 20 years and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. I grew up in Alaska while my dad was serving. I started to feel like, here we are in a war, and we’re seeing on the news at night ‘here’s what’s going on with the war and here’s how many soldiers have been killed,’ butt, it really started to hit me that no one’s telling the stories of the families left behind.”
“Married to the Army: Alaska” is a docu-series airing on OWN that takes a look at real-life Army wives, and the ways that military families navigate the challenges and sacrifices of deployment. It follows the families of seven soldiers based at Fort Richardson, Alaska, who are deployed in Afghanistan. Together they cope with raising their families, fearing for their husbands’ safety and managing the ups and downs of Army life and culture, made more difficult at times by living in Alaska.
One of women highlighted is Yolanda Goins, wife of Brigade Commander Morris Goins.
“I met Stephanie at our deployment ceremony and she asked the commanding officer to speak with me and initially I was like ‘no way. ‘But then I learned that Stephanie was an army brat and that she really had invested a lot into this project. It was in the interview that I realized that I was fiercely proud of what my husband does and I had a thought of all the sacrifices that the soldier, families and children make and I realized that telling the spouses story would be a great thing to do. We also serve our nation just as the soldiers do but on the other side of the battlefield.”
Goins married her husband knowing full well that the military would be her life. The couple now has a 20 year old son who is currently attending The United States Military Academy at West Point.
With regard to the actual production Goins recalls, “At first it was awkward with the cameras there, you are suddenly very conscious of your words and your actions, but you get used to it after a while and it doesn’t take long. It wasn’t a burden or invasive. You start to forget that they’re there.”
It’s clear that the other women look up to Goins and reach out to her for guidance given her years in her role as a military spouse. “I enjoy it immensely,” reveals Goins.”I have this role because I am Yolanda Goins and my husband is the Brigade Commander. It’s not something that’s required. I choose to do it. That’s the way that I serve.”
The show affected Goins in unexpected ways. “It was a lot of self-discovery for me. Many times, I have to put on my game face and be there for my ladies. It’s a self-imposed type of thing. I feel like I have to be strong at all times and that can be difficult. But what I’ve learned from this show is that it’s ok for me to express emotion and it’s ok for me to just be Yolanda sometimes as opposed to always being Mrs. Goins, the Brigade Commander’s wife. I take my role very seriously. That’s the way it is in the Army culture. I try to do everything in my power to be an example and live a positive life style.”
Going deeper into this sentiment, Goins explained, “When we had a casualty, I learned that you can’t control your emotions even if there are TV cameras around. And I learned that it’s ok for me to lean on other people. I don’t have to be so strong all the time.”
For Goins, the show has been ‘a wonderful journey,’ and she praises Stephanie Drachkovitch and 44 Blue Productions for their involvement. “The company has been so sensitive to us; asking if it’s ok, can we film this, are you ok with answering this, and things like that. They’ve told our stories very gracefully, very honestly. And, remember I was ‘Level 10’ leery about the whole process. They created an obvious quality of mutual respect that we reached during filming. They filmed memorials and that was important to us. We want American people to see that, that part of the sacrifice. That’s the ultimate sacrifice.”
Once a reluctant participant, Goins now not only champions the show but sees it as a way to make people aware of everything that the families of active military experience and why all Americans should be mindful of it.
“We have spouses that give up careers, children that go months, sometimes a year, without seeing a parent. I want people to see that these spouses care so much about our freedom that they sacrifice their lives as well. They do it in a different way than the soldiers, but make no mistake about it; they give up virtually everything to support our soldiers that are fighting in active war zones; soldiers that chose to enlist during a time of war and that proud to represent our country. All Americans owe it to the soldiers and their families to be mindful of this every day.”
“Married to the Army: Alaska” airs on OWN Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT.