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’s 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’s 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.