Affair at odds with idyllic image of Petraeus' marriage

 

Washington

The mother and father of the bride were glowing.

After 38 years of marriage, retired Gen. David H. Petraeus and his wife, Holly, were presiding over their daughter's wedding last month in Berryville, Va., at the stunning Rosemont Manor. Anne Petraeus, 30, slim and beautiful, wore a white V-neck lace dress. Her groom was dressed in a dark suit and silver tie.

The Petraeus family projected unity and love, but they were just days away from revelations of infidelity that would shatter the CIA director's career and taint his marriage. On Anne Petraeus' wedding day, however, everyone was joyful.

"When dinner was over, Holly and Dave were both beaming throughout their evening," said retired Gen. Jack Keane, a longtime mentor who attended the nuptials. "They made their own way around the room saying hello to their friends and relatives."

Since Petraeus' abrupt resignation Friday after admitting to an extramarital affair, the focus has been on him and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, with whom he is accused of having an affair. But the fallout from the scandal has engulfed Holly Petraeus, who met her husband in 1973 when he was a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and her father was the superintendent. They were married in July 1974 at the West Point chapel.

Holly always dismissed suggestions that Petraeus married her to advance his career.

"I'm not stupid. I wouldn't have married someone on the make," she told journalist Linda Robinson, whose 2008 book "Tell Me How This Ends" describes the Petraeuses' courtship. "We got married because we fell in love."

The daughter of a four-star general who can trace her family's military service to the Civil War, Holly endured long separations from her husband during his repeated deployments overseas. To many Army couples, she and Petraeus represented a role-model marriage.

During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Holly emerged as one of the country's most visible advocates for military families. Her own son, Stephen, served in Afghanistan.

In the close-knit world of military family advocacy organizations, she is considered a fierce lobbyist with serious credibility on Capitol Hill. As the assistant director for the Obama administration's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she monitors and investigates consumer complaints from U.S. service members.

She frequently visits military installations and testifies before congressional committees, exposing a wide array of problems faced by the rank and file: how military families can't sell their homes for enough to pay off their mortgages when they receive a "permanent change of station" and must move. Or how military spouses in professions that need licenses or certifications must pay expensive fees for renewals at each new duty station.

"And I can testify that military spouses move a lot! My husband and I moved 24 times in 37 years, in fact," Holly said last year in written testimony before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

As Holly confronts her family's crisis, those who know her professionally and personally are watching with sympathy.

Joyce Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association, said it's been difficult to watch someone who spends her life fighting to protect military families to cope with her own family tensions.

"There are so many of us who have been talking via e-mail about this, because we respect her so much, and that [the controversy] has to be so public," Raezer said. "She is so well-respected in the military community. I always know that Holly Petraeus has her finger on what's important. And when Holly says, 'This is an important issue,' that gives the issue instant credibility because she's that good."

When Petraeus led the 101st Airborne Division in the invasion of Iraq, it was Holly who stayed back in Fort Campbell, Ky., trying to address the problems of others, no matter their rank.

"She came onto the larger scene when she was there at Fort Campbell, keeping those families together, as the commanding general's wife," Raezer said. "Holly always has this ability to look at military families, regardless of rank and ask: 'What are your issues? Where can they be helped?' "

Keane, who has communicated with Petraeus since the news of his affair broke, said Holly will get through this test.

"Holly is a remarkably strong woman," he said, "and she's bearing up under these circumstances about as well as anyone could expect."

Keane has seen her handle crises before. In the early 1990s, when Petraeus was accidentally shot in the chest with an M-16 rifle by another soldier, Keane remembers seeing Holly at the hospital where he was undergoing surgery. The round took out a chunk of his lung.

"I can remember when I first encountered her and told her he was in surgery and that he was going to be all right," Keane recalled. "She was very calm. No outward emotion, whatsoever. No fear in her voice. She just very calmly asked, 'How could this happen?' "

For her daughter's wedding in October, Holly treated Anne and her bridesmaids to manicures, pedicures and hairstyling, according to Anne's photo-filled blog, where she describes the nuptials. In one of the photos, Anne is laughing as her mother helps button up the back of her dress.

Afterward, Anne was elated.

"This weekend was so incredible," she writes. "Such a wonderful time with so many dear family and friends. Truly one of the best weekends of my life!"

There was no hint of what was coming.

- - -

Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas