Dear Ms. Vicki,
I’ve been reading your column for a few years now, and I like the way you always encourage every spouse to participate with the family readiness group (FRG), no matter the rank of the service member.
That’s why I was very discouraged and heartbroken to find out that rank does matter, Ms. Vicki. It matters a lot.
I started participating in the FRG about a year ago when we were at Fort Carson. It was nothing but a clique, just like a bunch of schoolgirls who wanted to sit around and talk about their husbands' ranks.
Why can’t spouses just support each other and forget about rank? It’s always a “1-Up” atmosphere.
I couldn’t wait to get to an FRG meeting at our new duty station. What was the first question I was asked from the company commander’s wife? What rank is your husband?
I quickly asked, “Does it matter? I’m an Army wife, just like you are."
It was downhill after that point. Within two days, my husband was called on the carpet by the commander. He told my husband that I had offended his wife with disrespect. Well, she offended me!
My husband is a sergeant, and I am damn proud of him. I have a masters degree and I am working on my Ph.D. I’ll bet I have more education than most of the officers' wives at this base, yet they continue to act like they are better than junior enlisted and senior enlisted spouses. It’s shameful!
All I did was show up wanting to connect with other spouses, make friends, network and learn the post -- that’s all. Now my husband is fearful that he will not be treated fairly, and I feel like I caused this by taking your advice and being supportive to the military community.
It’s a disaster, and I don’t know how to stop the damage. I can see why the junior enlisted spouses do not participate in the FRG. It’s because we are made to feel like we don’t belong there.
Ms. Vicki, you have said that rank does not matter because spouses are not in the military (unless they are in the military themselves).
But rank does matter.
I wish more senior NCOs’ wives would participate. Honestly, I have not noticed a strong presence from this group of women, and I wonder why.
They should come so they can be supportive of enlisted spouses and stand up for them. Maybe they just don’t want problems either.
This has upset me and set me back in a big way. I don’t know what to do now.
-- Educated, Likable but Shunned
Yes, you are right. I always try to encourage spouses to get involved with their military community on post and in the local community. This includes the FRG.
Your story is all too familiar. To my dismay, I get many letters like yours, and many writers ask that their letters not be printed. It’s their choice not to have the letter printed, but it’s still troubling in many ways for me.
My first suggestion is this: Let’s not turn this into an “us against them” or an “officer’s spouse vs. NCO spouse etc.” However, this situation appears to have escalated with your husband facing his commander about what you said to his wife.
This is not a good situation. For this reason, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t go back. You and your husband don’t need the trouble.
Simply make sure your name and all contact information is on the list in order to receive all pertinent information. We all have choices.
Moreover, I think you should be in a healthy environment and one that you will feel comfortable in. Try not to judge your recent experiences as a macro or widespread problem.
I hope that you will never have this problem again. You have to understand that you will make some great connections along the way and find friends who will be closer to you than your own family.
Because I have experienced the death of many loved ones, I’ve learned that life is just too short to spend it around people who put you in a bad place.
Spend your life with people who complement you, accept you for who you are and make you happy.
Think about volunteering in other places like the schools, Army Community Service, American Red Cross etc.
Be on the watch for someone to make friends with in your husband’s unit who can keep you informed.
Continue to support your husband and take care of yourself, too.
-- Ms. Vicki