The Sergeant Major's Wife by Billie-Fae Gerard Gill
Review by N.K. Wagner
Sit down with Billie-Fae Gill over a cup
of coffee and the stories flow. Told with intelligence and humor, The Sergeant Major’s Wife: A Reflection
is an organized compilation of those stories stemming from the twenty years she
joined her husband Bill in serving their country in the United States Army. At
the end of that time, Bill held the rank of Command Sergeant Major; Billie-Fae
was simply designated as dependent/spouse.
But don’t let the lack of exalted
recognition fool you. Mrs. Gill is a member of a select society which reaches
back to the very foundation of our country—the military spouse. While the
details are unique, any military wife will find herself nodding in recognition
of the challenges and rewards this lifestyle presents. Military members will be
allowed to see the other side of the coin—the life of those who “also serve”
while their mates fulfill their duties. Civilians will learn what makes the
lives of those who choose this lifestyle something to be honored. And everyone
will learn a bit of history that is no longer taught in schools but is
essential for understanding today’s world.
Written in an easy, conversational
style, The Sergeant Major’s Wife: A
Reflection tells the tale of a Cold War American Army wife from a whirlwind
courtship, two tours of duty in post war Germany (one with the Army of
Occupation) through the Korean Conflict, the Civil Rights Movement, and the
Vietnam War. Along the way, she gives concise history lessons, notes the
idiosyncrasies of the places she lived and the people she met, translates
acronym-laden military jargon into “civilian,” and chronicles the melding of
the brash Yankee girl and the smooth Southern sergeant into a lifelong romance
in an active family of seven children.
I feel lucky to have participated in
the critique of an earlier draft of The
Sergeant Major’s Wife. Since then, the stories have been expanded and all
the details fact checked. I’m a retired army wife, and I believe my favorite
part of the experience was watching the wonderful reactions of our civilian
colleagues to the world service members and their families consider “normal.”
Or, maybe, my favorite part (being an army wife from 1972 through 1993) was the
confirmation that the experience of being a military wife hasn’t changed in a
significant way from one generation to the next.
What I am certain of is, whether you
enjoy reading memoir, romance, adventure, or history, you will enjoy reading The Sergeant Major’s Wife: A Reflection
by Billie-Fae Gerard Gill.