Twenty-four years ago, when I became a military spouse, I was pretty clueless.
“Honey,” my husband Francis delicately explained through clenched teeth two weeks after our wedding, “the reason you should NOT lose your new military ID, is that you will need it for everything!” I thought the silly laminated card was an unnecessary formality. I had no idea that it would actually become more important than my spleen.
I went on to make more stupid mistakes. During our first move, we didn’t inventory or label anything, and had no idea that we needed to keep track of “hardware” and “high value items.” We were nervous, however, when just before driving off with our belongings, the truck driver told us about the time he drank a fifth of Wild Turkey while hauling a load, and had no recollection of driving through six states.
While stationed in Stuttgart, our daughter needed cookies for school the next day, but the heating element in the oven of our Patch Barracks stairwell apartment wasn’t working. We thought baking the cookies under the broiler was genius, until the smoke alarm went off at 11pm, and the building residents had to stand outside in their pajamas waiting for the German firetrucks to arrive.
With April Fool’s Day upon us, I am reminded of my buffoonery, and wonder, “Am I the only foolish military spouse?” I recently reached out to others, and found out that nobody is perfect.
One Navy wife confessed that after two decades of going to formal military ceremonies, she still forgets to put her hand over her heart during the national anthem, and then spends the rest of the song thinking, “Is it too late? Is anyone watching? Can I do it now?”
An Army spouse once berated a man who rear-ended her car just outside the base gate. When he asked why she had stopped, she shouted, “Because there was someone on a bike in the cross-walk, you @$%&!” Turns out, that man was the General.
A Marine wife was at a formal tea for new pilots’ wives during the first year of her marriage. Someone passed around a bowl of foam earplugs for a tour of the hangar. She thought they were marshmallows and tried to eat them.
A Navy spouse was in a rush to get to the Fort Myer commissary, and impatiently honked and gestured at a car that had stopped in front of her. Little did she know, the driver was allowing a horse-drawn caisson to pass by on its way to Arlington Cemetery. “It’s safe to say that I have NEVER honked my horn on base again,” she said.
Several spouses were not adequately trained in commissary etiquette. They violated the directional arrows on the floors, cut lines and stiffed baggers. One Air Force spouse survived all the dirty looks and made it to the cashier, only to realize that there were no checks in her checkbook. She promptly burst into tears and left, humiliated.
An Air Force spouse was incensed early in her marriage, when a base hospital only required her husband’s social security number for her pre-natal registration. She demanded that they write her name boldly across the top of the form, which they did, in pencil. “They probably erased it right after I left,” she realized.
Many spouses relayed embarrassing moments at military functions. One burst into the ballroom laughing when the MC was solemnly explaining the symbolism of the Fallen Comrade Table. Another was yucking it up with guest speaker Tommy Lasorda at a dining out, when both began giggling uncontrollably during the prayer. And, an Admiral’s wife took me aside at a command holiday party to tell me I had a blob of chocolate fondue on my chin.
Back when she was ignorant of the ranking system, one Navy spouse pinned one of her husband’s oak leaves on upside down during his promotion ceremony, all while smiling obliviously at the crowd. The General took pity on her, and pinned the other oak leaf on upside down to match.
Turns out, we all make mistakes from time to time. The only foolish act would be denying it.