Thirty-eight years ago, West Point graduate David Petraeus married the woman who’d be there with him through his lengthy military career.
But late in their marriage, Holly Petraeus is facing a challenge no woman should have to deal with — a very public expose’ of her husband’s infidelity, complete with lurid details that just keep getting worse. And in addition to the humiliation of her husband’s infidelities, she must deal with the insinuations that she couldn’t keep her own husband and the insult that he traded her affections for those of a much-younger woman.
David Petraeus, though, isn’t the only strength in this military family. Anybody who knows military wives, especially those married to extremely high-ranking officers, also knows many of them have backbones of steel, and Holly Petraeus is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
1. She is the Daughter of a Four-Star General
Holly grew up in a military family and as the daughter of four-star Gen. William Knowlton, who became the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. But before he took over West Point, the general, who died in 2008, was a highly decorated soldier, with awards and decorations including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star with 2 oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star, Air Medal with 9 oak leaf clusters, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. His foreign awards include the French Legion d’Honneur and the Großes Verdienstkreuz mit Stern from Germany.
So Holly was no stranger to the military life or the extraordinary demands that come along with being married to a general that many people consider a hero.
2. She and David Petraeus Met While He was a Cadet
Holly and David Petraeus met in 1973 while he was a cadet at West Point and she was attending Dickinson College. The couple dated for about a year and got married just two months after Petraeus graduated. Her given name is Hollister, according to their engagement announcement
3. They Met on a Blind Date
Holly was a senior at Dickinson College, when she visited her parents at West Point. A family friend fixed her up with a last-minute blind date with David Petraeus, and the young couple’s first date was to a football game.
“There was a superintendent with an attractive daughter and 4,000 lonely guys,” classmate Conrad Crane said in an interview with USA Today. “Dave was the one who got the girl.”
4. They Were Smitten From the Beginning
While some through the years have insisted Petraeus went after the superintendent’s daughter to further his own career, in reality, the couple doted on each other from the beginning, and Holly says of their quick marriage, “We fell in love.”
I admired his intelligence and thought he was great. I had no way of predicting how far he would go.
5. She Probably Could Have Had Her Choice of Military Men
With her military pedigree, Holly probably could have chosen anyone, not a mere cadet. Back then, nobody could have realized how far David Petraeus would climb, and it would take a lot to impress a woman whose father was the head of West Point and who has a family with service that reaches back to the Revolutionary War, with her brother, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather all being in the military.
6. The Couple Has Two Now-Grown Children
Holly and David Petraeus are the parents of Anne and Steven Petraeus. Steven, who graduated from MIT, served two tours in Afghanistan. Anne graduated in 2004 from her mother’s alma mater, Dickinson, which awarded her father with an honorary doctorate degree when he spoke at commencement in 2012. Anne got married just a few weeks ago.
7. They Moved 23 Times in 36 Years
The Petraeuses were the typical military family. While the general was overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and rising to head the CIA, Holly followed him faithfully, raised their children and volunteered at the bases where the lived.
8. Gen. Petraeus Isn’t the Only Star on in the Family
Holly Petraeus has channeled her brains and talents over the years, and she’s considered one of the country’s most visible advocates for military families. She’s also well-regarded as a fierce lobbyist who enjoys a lot of credibility on Capitol Hill.
9. She Works for the Obama Administration
Holly is the assistant director for the Obama administration’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and monitors and investigates consumer complaints from U.S. service members. Ironically, she often speaks about the need to keep military families together, noting that some financial situations have caused many service members to have “opted to avoid foreclosure by leaving their family in their home and going alone to their new duty station – a separation that can last three years or more.”
10. She Has Not Spoken Out About Her Husband’s Indiscretions
Her husband has been open about the errors of his ways, saying:
After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.
But despite the public humiliation, Holly isn’t talking about her problems in public — and knowing her background, she likely won’t, either.