"I threw all of our laundry out the front door because I was just so insanely angry that he was going to be leaving," recalls Sarah Smiley.
She and husband Dustin Smiley, a Navy pilot, have two children.
Smiley grew up military: Her father is a retired rear admiral. He was gone so much, he didn't even meet her until she was seven-months-old.
But when her husband started leaving, twice to Iraq so far, Smiley started writing about what military families go through, both the good and the bad.
"I just wanted to show other wives that you can be a military wife, and you don't always have to have strong days," Smiley told Cowan. "You can have days when you're like, 'Oh, I'm just really not making it, ya know?' "
Her musings soon became a syndicated newspaper column that now reaches more than two million people every week. From that, sprang to life a book, "Going Overboard: The Misadventures of a Military Wife."
The book, like her columns, is honest, almost to a fault, Cowan observes.
"What if I'd married somebody else? What if I'd married a banker or a lawyer, ya know, somebody that would come home every night?" Smiley offers as an example of the frank thoughts she expresses in writing.
She's been criticized for revealing too much, speaking, for instance, about deployment demons such as infidelity: She had a schoolgirl crush on her doctor, she reveals, while her husband was away.
"Nobody screens my column, not even my husband," Smiley says. "He reads it, but he's very good about. He says, 'It's your opinion, it's your column. I've got nothing to do with it.' "
"He's very good-humored; I married the right person, truly!" Smiley laughed.
Her column serves up strength to Becky Atensio, whose husband just left for Iraq.
Atensio says Smiley's relations and admissions have made her feel less alone.
"Down here (in Pensacola, Fla.), I have no family," Atensio says. "I don't have family within a thousand miles of this area, so when he leaves, my military family is the people I need to depend on."
As the war in Iraq enters its fourth year, Smiley offers unique comfort to those left behind and, along the way, she's given some to herself, as well, Cowan concludes.