Four Famous U.S. Military Spouses
In a nation with such a massive military force, it’s no surprise that millions of U.S. citizens classify themselves as spouses of active duty servicemembers or veterans. In fact, some statistics suggest that the U.S. Department of Defense is the largest enterprise in the world, based on the number of its military and civilian employees. Among the millions of military members, the life of a military spouse may be common, but some are experienced more publicly than others. Below are four of the most famous U.S. military or veteran spouses.
Although she didn’t receive the title until after her death, Martha Washington was the first First Lady of the United States, married to the first President of the United States, George Washington. George Washington, of course, is a well-known military man, whose career spanned more than 40 years and who served in three different armed forces – the British provincial militia, the Continental Army, and the United States Army. Because of his importance in U.S. history, he was granted a posthumous promotion to General of the Armies of the United States, the highest possible rank in the US Army, more than 175 years after his death.
Widowed at age 25, Martha re-married to a young George Washington two years later, after courting her and visiting her twice at her White House plantation after the death of her husband. After a grand wedding and a honeymoon at White House, Martha moved to George’s Mount Vernon plantation, happily living a private life except for her visits to her husband’s winter encampments for each of eight years. At these encampments, “Lady Washington” served as a hostess, keeping up morale and hosting dinners with officers, visitors, and wives of senior officers. After the war, she is said to have opposed her husband’s agreeing to be President of the newly formed United States of America, and she did not attend his inauguration. However, once he assumed office, she hosted many affairs of state at New York City and Philadelphia during their years as temporary capitals, events that became known as the “Republican Court.”
Since Martha Washington, countless First Ladies of the United States can claim the title of military or veteran spouse, including more recent examples such as Laura Bush, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, Rosalyn Carter, Betty Ford, Pat Nixon, Lady Bird Johnson, and Mamie Eisenhowser.
June Carter Cash
One of the most famous musical duos in the country-western world, June Carter – known later as June Cash – was famous in her own rite before marrying “The Man in Black.” Carter grew up as part of the famed Carter Family and played the guitar, banjo, harmonica, and autoharp, and acted in numerous films and television shows. Over her career, she would go on to win five Grammy Awards, be inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame, and be ranked number 31 in CMT's 40 Greatest Women in Country Music. While touring with the Carter Family, she meet musician Johnny Cash, and the two would eventually be married – 13 years after their first introduction Carter-Cash accompanied Cash on many performances and hit songs, and actually wrote the song, “Ring of Fire” in 1960, a song that would go on to be one of Johnny Cash’s best known hits.
When June married Johnny Cash in 1968, his military career was long behind him, although it remained arguably inseparable from his music legacy. For example, coming from a poor upbringing, Cash could only afford his first guitar once receiving military pay. He purchased his first guitar at the Base Exchange while stationed in Germany, and formed his first band while in the Air Force. After his discharge, he used his GI Bill benefits to attend a radio-announcing course at a broadcasting school in Memphis. Years later, he would later help another musical veteran – a young Army captain named Kris Kristofferson –make it big in Nashville as well.
Taya Kyle is an example of a military spouse whose husband’s life and death undeniably changed the direction of her own life. The widow of Chris Kyle – a SEAL known as the most lethal military sniper in U.S. history – she offers a unique perspective on life after the service for military members, as her husband was not killed in the countless life-threatening missions of his career, but at a gun range in Texas in 2013 while helping a young troubled veteran. Today she is a top advocate, spokesperson, and well-known public figure representing veterans, families, widows, and survivors.
In 2014, Kyle founded the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation in honor of her husband, with the mission of connecting military families and veterans, and providing interactive experiences to enrich family relationships. Also in 2014, Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood (also a military veteran) directed the feature film “American Sniper,” based on the life of the Kyles’ life together. Taya was involved in the making of the film, working with the film's screenwriter, and was portrayed by actress Sienna Miller. The film, released in January 2015, was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay.
Although her (very famous) future husband’s military career was a brief two years long, it was because of his deployment to Germany with the U.S. Army that brought the two together in a first meeting. Elvis Aaron Presley was already a well-known heartthrob through his musical career in the United States. Priscilla, the stepdaughter of a U.S. Air Force officer, was living in Germany with her family when she attended a party at Presley’s home. Although she was very young, she made an impression on Elvis, who would stay in close contact with her over the phone even after his return to the States.
Three years later, Priscilla was allowed to visit Elvis in the United States, under the conditions that he pay for a first class round-trip ticket and that they would be chaperoned at all times. The couple would eventually be married in 1967, and soon after became pregnant with their daughter, Lisa Marie. Although the couple would divorce in 1973, Priscilla would become co-founder and former chairwoman of Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE), the company that turned Graceland into one of the top tourist attractions in the U.S. She has also enjoyed an extensive acting career, starring with in movies and long-running soap operas.
Written by Megan Hammons