Who Is Holly Petraeus? The Scorned General's Wife Isn't All She Seems

Wonder Woman 47

holly petraeusAs the Petraeus sex scandal continues to spiral, there's one person I keep wondering about: David's wife of 37 years, Holly Petraeus. How is she taking this scandal? Is she furious, heartbroken -- is she surprised? Did she ever suspect her husband was fooling around?

You've seen the photos of Holly: A grandmotherly woman with a gray bob and swept bangs, almost always smiling, glasses perched on her nose. She reminds me of oatmeal cookies -- sweet, wholesome, and a little old-fashioned. But dainty? Forget it. Behind that kind smile is a woman made of iron. She's an Army wife. Not just an Army wife, but a four-star General's wife who's managed to forge her own path and identity.

Holly is what they call military royalty. Her father is retired four-star General William Knowlton, formerly the superintendent of the United States Military Academy when Petraeus was a cadet there. He also served as a NATO commander. Holly's ancestors fought in the Civil War, Spanish American War, and the Indian Wars.

She met David as a student when she was visiting her family from Dickinson College. A family friend set her up on a blind date with David to attend a football game. Friends like to say there were 4,000 boys at West Point with just one superintendent's daughter -- and David won her. In 37 years as a couple, they had two kids and moved 24 times. Fellow Army wife Bethanne Patrick says there's a saying, "If the Army wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one." It speaks to the sacrifices military wives make. After 9/11 David went on four tours abroad and Holly saw him more often on TV than in real life.

For years as a general's wife, she stood to greet troops at countless arrivals, no matter the time or the weather. She was affectionately dubbed a "hangar rat" for always being there for the troops. When David returned from Iraq in 2008, he called Holly "the greatest source of support, wise counsel, and love that any soldier could have."

Over the years she became concerned over how often predatory businesses prey upon military families. A whopping 27 percent of military households have $10,000 or more in debt compared with 16 percent of Americans. So Holly headed up a Better Business Bureau for the U.S. Army. Her office managed to recoup over $130,000 for military consumers. And she helped create a database that kept track of persistent scammers. A former colleague at BBB once said of her, "She’s Mom, apple pie, and also a pit bull."

Elizabeth Warren liked Holly's work and appointed her to head the Office of Servicemember Affairs for the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Her job there is to help "service members and their families make good financial decisions, and, when they don't, trying to stop those who prey on them."

And that's Holly's legacy. I believe that she's "furious" with her husband. She's also hurt. But whatever she does, whether she stands by her man or walks away, I think she's tough enough to weather this scandal with her soul and her self worth intact.

How would you be feeling now if you were Holly Petraeus?


Image via Secretary of Defense/Flickr

in the news, military


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Aunt_... Aunt_ning

What a remarkable woman, I hope she walks away with her head high. She deserves someone better than a Man that cheats

nonmember avatar TheDude

aunt's comment is predictable, and naive.

like it or not, if you let yourself go to $h!t you are asking for it.

tuffy... tuffymama

Ignore the sexism of TheDick's comment above, and carry on.

I'd be spitting nails and stabbing his pillow, if it happened to me. Then I'd shower, dress, put on my face, and get in with the business of dispensing with him and pillaging his assets. Cheaters can only be hurt in the wallet. It's a hard lesson to learn, so trust me, and use the knowledge if you ever need it, God forbid and knock wood.

nonmember avatar lea mckinney

The Dude, your comment was hateful and unwarranted toward this lady. You probably look like the curse word you said she looked like. Take a good long look at yourself in the mirror...........see i told you so !

AFwif... AFwife2010

I'd be feeling embarrassed and furious. I have to wonder though, because she seems smart, if she kinda already knew about her Husbands affair. She is the ultimate military wife and just wife in general who did not deserve this. I'm an Air Force wife and this sickens me. Why would he and the women whom he cheated with do this? She had a husband and children as well. They aren't just hurting their respective spouses but the children too. I'll never understand infidelity. If you don't want that person then get a divorce it would've seabed them all this scandal. They're Two immature idiots that's for sure.

Elle Carson

Your headline is somewhat misleading. She is all "she seems." I know this personally. Don't sensationalise a story by the title, let your body of work do that.

Cel7777 Cel7777

TheDude, I've seen several photos of Gen. Petraeus, and he doesn't appear to be movie-star hot either. In fact I wouldn't look twice at him if I passed him on the street.

Procr... Procrastamom

If I was ever cheated on, I have a plan and it's based on an idea I read somewhere on the internet.  The scorned woman was cheated on by her husband and then when he divorced her he kicked her out, kept their marital home and moved the mistress in.  Before she left, she removed the knobs (the finials) from the ends of the hollow curtain rods, stuffed some fresh fish in there and then replaced the finials.  Of course, the fish didn't start rotting and stinking until well after she'd moved out and the husband and mistress went crazy trying to find the source of the foul smell.  The story is that they never did find the source and eventually had to move out of the house due to discomfort from the fish rot.  Also, of course, it rendered the house unsellable.  I think it was a brilliant scheme and the perfect method of justice.

Belinda Sue Colley

Most people are only "sorry" after they have been caught.  Had they never been caught, they would, in fact, never have to be "sorry" in their twisted thinking.  I hope she doesn't forgive him and the rest of his life is in ruins.  It is everything he deserves and then some.

pupuk... pupukeawahine

I'd be scared shitless if I were the "other woman."  She needs to run, and run fast.  And hey "the dude.  They both are middle aged to older people who look like most their age.  He has not honored all she has done for him over the years, and he has probably lost his best friend.  I would hate to think my husband expects me to put all my time, efforts and money into preserving myself, instead of growing old together and enjoying our latter years and the grandkids.  Those are the fruits of a life well-lived.  Instead her husband can re-live the fun of his flings in his mind and all the trouble they caused, old and alone.

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