And so on. Endlessly on, for miles of marching.
Ain’t no use in goin’ home Jody got your girl and gone
Ain’t no use in feelin’ blue
Jody took your auto too.
Lost your car in a poker game
Left your gal for another dame
Now she’s down in New Orleans
Sells her ass to earn her beans.
A joke? Happens to other guys? Well, actually, no. It’s so common that marching cadences in general are called “Jodies.” Before the long (six page) article is over, we learn that since Mr. Bush’s war began, Army divorces have risen 80%.
KILLEEN, Texas—Most of the men in 4th Squad, Charlie Battery, fought two wars while they were in Iraq. There was the war against the insurgents that had them patrolling for roadside bombs and raiding houses at all hours. Then there was the war back home, which had them struggling, over phone lines from 7,000 miles away, to keep their marriages and their bank accounts intact.
They say they eventually got used to the bombs. The crazy possibility of dying any minute didn’t haunt them so much. But that other war, that was the one that tore them up in the downtime spent in Sgt. Cox’s trailer at Camp Victory. It would get quiet, and then one or another of them would ask: “So, how are things going at home?” And they would begin to brood.
They all knew about “Jody,” the opportunist of Army lore who moved in on a soldier’s girl while the soldier was off fighting a war. They had sung hundreds of cadences in basic training deriding the name. But it had always seemed like a joke, something that happened to other guys.
There’s even a verb: to be Dear Johnned. That’s the “Dear John” letter, which apparently got its name during WWII.
For some in the 4th Squad, the tensions played out nightly in Camp Victory’s “Internet cafe”—the Army trailer with rows of computers where soldiers flocked to contact their families. Some found more pain there than comfort. [SGT] Cox’s wife was five months pregnant when she announced she was leaving him and going back home to Lawton, Okla.
A big part of the problem, I think, is that the Army isn’t used to long deployments. The Army wives used to complain about two-week field exercises. The Navy wives would just look at them like “get a grip.” The Navy had six- to nine-month deployments every year. You coped, or knew very soon that you couldn’t.
Another thing we’d see a lot of were marriages just before we sailed, and the same guys getting divorced as soon as they got back. I expect the Army is seeing the same thing—get married before you deploy, even it it’s rushing things.
There are six men in the squad, and five of them saw their marriages or relationships come under severe pressure. One relationship survived and three didn’t; the fate of the fifth is unresolved.
Concentrating on the mission became hard. Sitting in a Humvee, waiting for orders to roll out, the men would think about how life at home was falling apart and they could do little about it.
“When we go outside that gate and into Baghdad, you’ve got to have your head straight,” said Cox, who now lives alone in an apartment at Ft. Hood. “You’re trying to stay alive, but your mind goes to back home. Whatever problem you had before you left escalates, because you’re not there. … I just wish she would have talked to me.”
In wartime, that isn’t totally unreasonable: If you get your head blown off there are benefits for Army widows. There aren’t any benefits for girlfriends.
Peacetime, I used to tell my troops, “Listen, don’t get married. If it’s real it’ll still be real when you get back. If it isn’t real, it still won’t be real when you get back but there’ll be a lot less paperwork.”
I remember the movie Fatal Attraction, where the Michael Douglas character can’t handle having his wife away over the weekend and so picks up with a book editor. I saw that with a bunch of my brother officers. Many of us hadn’t seen our wives in a year or so. We just laughed at him.
Any time you got back from cruise, the first week would be real tough for everyone. It’s like, “Who are you?” You develop coping mechanisms for this, but if you’ve never done it before, and it’s not anything anyone you know has done before, you’re trying to make it up as you go along—not the best way to get an optimum solution.
The Navy has the opposite problem than the Army does in this story. Our divorce rate shoots up after the guy retires or gets permanent shore duty and he’s hanging around all the time. I think that the underlying problem isn’t deployment, or lack of deployment; it’s change in routine.
A different article now:
There’s been a fair amount of speculation on the origin of the term:
“Dear John,” the letter began. “I have found someone else whom I think the world of. I think the only way out is for us to get a divorce,” it said. They usually began like that, those letters that told of infidelity on the part of the wives of servicemen… The men called them “Dear Johns”. (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, August, 1945)
Where shall we go from here? How about the classic “Dear John Letter” legend:
Several subscribers have mentioned a song on the theme of receiving a “Dear John” letter, suggesting it was the origin of the phrase. However, online sources say it appeared only in 1953, several years after the phrase had become established. A more plausible source was suggested by Dick Kovar, in a pre-World War Two radio programme called Dear John, starring Irene Rich, which was presented as a letter by a gossipy female character to her never-identified romantic interest and which opened with these words. Proving a link is likely to be impossible, but it’s conceivable this played a part in the genesis of the term.
All you deployed guys, take a word of advice from a fellow who’s been deployed more times than he can count: Don’t ask your sweetie questions if you don’t want to know the answers.
The soldier serving overseas, far from home was annoyed and upset when his girl wrote breaking off their engagement and asking for her photograph back.
He went out and collected from his friends all the unwanted photographs of women that he could find, bundled them all together and sent them back with a note saying……….. “Regret cannot remember which one is you—please keep your photo and return the others.”
And you Jodies? Do me a favor. If you’re banging a soldier’s spouse, please put one of those yellow “Support Our Troops” magnetic ribbons on your SUV. Just so everyone will know you’re doing your part.