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Joan Burton (Army Wives)

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Title: Joan Burton (Army Wives)  
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Subject: Army Wives, Claudia Joy Holden
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Joan Burton (Army Wives)

Joan Burton
Army Wives character
Wendy Davis as Col. Joan Burton
First appearance

"A Tribe is Born"
(episode 1.01)
Created by

Katherine Fugate
Portrayed by

Wendy Davis
Gender Female
Occupation Garrison commander
Title Colonel in the U.S. Army
(23rd Airborne Division)
Spouse(s) Roland Burton
(husband; 2 children [1 adopted])
Children David Burton
(son, with Roland; adopted)
Sara Elizabeth Burton
(daughter, with Roland)

Fort Marshall, South Carolina

Colonel Joan Burton is a fictional character from the Lifetime television series Army Wives, portrayed by Wendy Davis.

Fictional biography

Joan is a native of the ghettos of South Side, Chicago. She once stated that her classmates in high school were all either doing drugs or getting pregnant. In Season 6 she tells Roland that she briefly experiment with marijuana in high school and that one of her good friends moved on to heroin and ended up dying of overdose.[1] A coach at her school spotted her athletic potential and track became her outlet and a way out of her impoverished background. She attended college on an Army ROTC scholarship and joined the Army.

Joan is married to Dr. Roland Burton (Sterling K. Brown), which makes Roland the lone "Army husband" among the main characters. After returning from deployment in Season 1, Joan struggles with PTSD resulting from her experiences while deployed. Her relationship with Roland suffers, and he has a one-night stand with a visiting reporter due to his feelings of alienation and dissatisfaction. He confesses to Joan when she returns from abroad, leading talk of divorce. But the two reconcile following her announcement that she is pregnant and the explosion at the Hump Bar.

Season 2 deals with Joan's pregnancy, and her daughter, Sara Elizabeth, is born at the end of the Season. Sara Elizabeth celebrates her first birthday in Season 4. Sara Elizabeth's godparents are Claudia Joy and General Michael Holden. She and Roland adopt David in Season 5 and his adoption is finalized in the Season 6 premiere.


In the pilot episode Joan is introduced as a Lieutenant Colonel who returns from Afghanistan after nearly two years. Her career nearly ends with an Article 15 after a decision she makes causes one of her soldiers with PTSD to hold her husband Roland and Claudia Joy Holden hostage. She considers retiring to avoid a court martial and her career ending in disgrace but Colonel Michael Holden changes his mind when she voluntarily separates herself from the Army for a month to seek treatment at a VA clinic for her PTSD. Throughout the first season, she struggles to cope with events that occurred while she was deployed, eventually leaving for a treatment facility. During the Season 1 finale, she discovers she is pregnant.

The branch insignia on her service uniform indicates that she is an intelligence officer. She previously served as Michael's G-2 ( When the post commander Brigadier General Baker suffered a brain aneurysm, Michael is promoted to Brigadier General and made post commander. He offers her the position as his executive officer (i.e. second in command), which she accepts.[2] During this time, she hides her pregnancy while deciding whether or not to keep the baby. She has a change of heart when at the clinic to terminate her pregnancy and confesses to Roland that the thought of him and how he would make a great father drove her to change her mind about keeping the baby. When she finally confesses that she is pregnant, General Holden hires LTC Evan Connor to cover for her while she is on maternity leave. Connor tries to undermine her with every opportunity and even uses SPC Trevor LeBlanc, who was working as her assistant while recuperating from his injury, to get back at her indirectly. In the episode "Post and Prejudice" Connor is pitted against Joan in the annual war games and was soundly defeated even tough he made use of one of her staff to leak information to his side. At the end of the episode he is transferred out of Fort Marshall at General Holden's request.

Despite doing everything she had to do to keep the job working for General Holden, Joan realizes via the war games victory that her true value to the Army is in combat. She asks General Holden if she can return to the field in Iraq, which also causes much tension with Roland and a tearful goodbye moment with Sara Elizabeth. In Season 4, she is re-deployed to Iraq and suffers an eye injury after her patrol comes under attack from an IED. Upon her return to Fort Marshall, she is diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury. She was placed on convalescent leave[3] and did not deploy with the Division.

In the Season 5 premiere she was notified of her promotion to the rank of colonel and also received the additional duty of Garrison Commander, which she gladly accepts as it meant she could spend more time with Roland and Sara Elizabeth.


  • Bronze Star Medal
  • Purple Heart
  • Meritorious Service Medal
  • Army Commendation Medal
  • Army Good Conduct Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Afghanistan Campaign Medal
  • Iraq Campaign Medal
  • Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
  • Army Service Ribbon
  • Army Overseas Service Ribbon

  • Combat Action Badge
  • Air Assault Badge
  • Parachutist Badge


Reviewing the show's second season, Patrick Luce of Monsters and Critics enjoyed Joan's pregnancy storyline, writing: "Davis’ character is so professional military that it was comic gold to see her going through the various changes that come with pregnancy, and the aftermath of having a baby. You can’t help but crack up watching the sleep-deprived Roland and Joan trying to function like before they had a baby.[4] Working Moms praised the character in a 2010 article, defining the character as a working mom balancing a military career with marriage and a newborn baby, and adding, "She defied expectations and became Fort Marshall's first African American female lieutenant colonel."[5]

Wendy Davis has also received three NAACP Image Award nominations for her portrayal of Joan Burton under the category of "Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series" in 2008, 2009, and 2011.[6][7][8]


External links

  • Lifetime
  • Internet Movie Database

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