Being a military spouse is not a new thing. It's old school.
From the camp followers of the Revolutionary War who followed the troops from location to location, military spouses have remained a fixture of our armed forces. And since we’ve been around for hundreds of years, we’ve learned a thing or two.
A lot that was learned has been regaled to the history books simply due to changing times. There are some things, however, that remain the same, and we can continue to learn from the examples of the military spouses who have gone before us.
Here are five things we modern military wives should make sure to safeguard and pass on to those who come into our military family each and every day.
1. PatienceIt was called the U.S. mail, and it was the only mode of communication. I know many of you can’t fathom a life free of cell phones, Skype, email, Face Time, etc., but believe it or not, there WAS a time where our Old School Sisters relied on paper, ink and stamps exclusively. Sometimes it took months for letters to be exchanged and every word of those were read and re-read again, cherished and tucked away for future generations to read.
We of the instant gratification generation demand daily communication and get annoyed and upset when that doesn’t happen. We are spoiled and impatient. A little patience goes a long way for the heart, mind and spirit- our Old School Sisters had it, and we should learn to cultivate it.
2. AppreciationHearken back to the day where there were no FRGs (I know some of you are looking for a time machine to jump into after hearing that!), no Child Development Centers, no MWR facilities or activities- basically you had a house and that was it. And let’s not forget being notified by telegram of the death of a service member instead of in-person by a Casualty Notification team.
There are so many people who have grand expectations of what the military should be providing to them- gimme, gimme, gimme is the name of the game.The bottom line is you aren’t owed anything for marrying a service member. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Not even a stipend (best Miss Vicki column EVER!).
So, instead of whining and demanding more from an already financially distressed DoD furloughing civilians and cutting precious training time for service members, be grateful for what you have. Appreciate the benefits afforded to you that our Old School Sisters didn’t enjoy-like the ability to have the GI Bill transferred to you.
They appreciated the simple fact that their spouses came home from war alive, which is much more important than worrying about the commissary being closed an extra day due to furlough. If you don’t believe me, ask a Gold Star Wife. She’ll set you straight.
3. DignityOur Old School sisters didn’t wear pajamas to the PX, to the commissary or out in public anywhere. Just because Wal-Mart shoppers do it doesn’t give the practice a seal of approval.
Take pride in your appearance. At least upgrade to something resembling actual clothing to be worn outside the house i.e., yoga pants, running pants, etc.You don’t have to get all white gloves and pill box hat like our Old School ladies, just look like you actually give a darn.
Which leads us to our “things not to wear at any military event” portion of dignity. We’ve all seen THAT photo on the Internet, where the spouse is flashing it all at a ball. Don’t be that girl who goes viral. There are ways to be sexy without baring 89 percent of your flesh.
A ball isn’t a night club -- it’s a formal military event which has ceremonial aspects to it. Don’t walk in looking like you’re looking for the nearest pole to swing on. Look like you’re going to the White House. Or the Oscars. NOT the MTV Video awards.
Old School Wives wore suits or dresses, hats, white gloves, and the dreaded stockings (not pantyhose -- stockings) every day at some point. Be happy those standards have lessened, but let’s not take the lax dress requirements of modern times to the extreme.
Wear real “outside” clothes, dress appropriately for the occasion (essentially, look at Roxy’s ensembles in the first season of “Army Wives” and do the polar opposite) and wear clothes that don’t flash your business and you’ll be okay.
4. Respect for and Pride in Your Service MemberThis one gets people all kinds of riled up. I know spouses who think it’s their job to talk about how crappy the military is, how much they hate it, how much they are against the wars, etc. That’s fine and dandy. But do you really need to share that constantly with your fellow military spouses and, especially, your servicemember?
Back in the day, the Old School Wives rocked the Blue Service Star flags in the windows and planted victory gardens. They also despised war, but understood their servicemembers didn’t all get together and elect to go kill people and risk dying themselves of their own volition. They were ordered to go. By the government. Not the military -- the government. So hating on the military for what the people in power decide for them to do is silly and futile.
A great example is one of the most fabulous Old School Wives I’ve ever known. She was a total hippie freak in the 70s. I am talking the quintessential love-child-flower-carryin’-Joan-Baez-singin’-long-hair-lovin’-bra-burnin’ lady in bell bottoms. She was also married to an Army major in Vietnam. Not a draftee, but a career officer.
While he was gone on all three tours, she protested at every turn. She carried signs, she sang, she sat-in. What she never did, however, was direct or associate any of her protests to her spouse or the military. She protested to and about the decision makers calling the shots, not the people following their lawful orders. She understood the two were separate.
Her husband understood her need to voice her opinion and appreciated that she chose to direct it at the right people and not involve him or the military. And that’s probably also why they had three Vietnam-era babies back-to-back and were married until they died.
So, get mad and use your voice. Just do it in the right way and to the right people.
5. MannersThis is the most simple, and the most abused by modern military spouses. If you get an invitation, respond. Respond “yes” or “no.” How hard is that? Apparently, extremely, since most people I know at some point either complain that people didn’t RSVP, or confess they themselves didn’t RSVP.
Tie this one with point two: appreciate that unlike the Old School Wives, our invites are no longer by hand and for sleep-inducing teas. We don’t have to wear gloves. Or heels. No, our modern invites are usually by email and involve cocktails and a fuzzy dice game (Bunco, anyone?).
So, even if you don’t want to win prizes and enjoy a refreshing adult beverage, have the decency to decline the invite (though I will never understand why anyone would do that...). Good Old School manners never go out of style, unless you won’t hand over the fuzzy dice when I ding the bell and scream “BUNCO!.” Then, I make no promises about being polite or minding my manners.
"Ansley" is an Army spouse and resides in Alexandria, Virginia