As some may know, I spent nine years on active duty and so for me many customs and traditions are second nature but many spouses are left in the dark. Maybe their husbands want to come home and not think about work and so they don’t bring it up. Or some spouses still live in their hometowns when they are first married and don’t really find the need to really get aquatinted with the military and many other reasons. However, there are some “need to knows” for all spouses. After all, we not only married a really handsome man in uniform but we married the military, too. We owe it to ourselves to be informed so that when they leave us for a deployment we know what to do and who we can turn to.
1. Acronyms! POA, DOD, SSN, MWR, PPV, CO, XO, and on and on they go. Learn them!!!! There are just so many and the military as whole uses them for everything! Ask your spouses to give you a list of the most important ones and don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t know. Even with all my years I still have to think about what one means if I haven’t seen it in a long time.
2. Get a POA (Power of Attorney)! All Milspouses should have one because you can’t get anything done without it if your husband (or wife) is deployed. When I say “anything”, I mean it! This is everything from taxes to ID cards to Tricare. You name it! They are very easy to obtain; just visit your Legal Assistance office and they can help you with all your questions. Just make sure you bring the one in uniform because without them, you won’t get your POA.
3. Know what “Colors” is and the etiquette. For those reading who have no idea what “Colors” is here is the short explanation: It is when the base plays the Nation Anthem in the morning (sunrise) and a bugle call in the evening (sunset). You are to stop and face the music, no matter what you are doing (outside). It is a tradition very near and dear to the hearts of service members. A time to stop and remember the fallen. Be respectful and stop!
4. Know your husband’s personal and work information. Every milspouse should be able to rattle off their husband (or wife’s) DOB (date of birth), SSN, duty phone, and command. Every time you go the doctor, you’ll need it. When you do just about anything involved with paper work, you will need this. Learn it and memorize it! Or do what I do and put it on your phone.
5. Know who you are talking to. I can’t stress enough the importance of knowing who the chain of command is for your spouse. Know who their wives are, too. Sometimes they want to hear your concerns and other times they don’t. Sure, it is okay to sit outside at the playground griping about how your husband has duty, AGAIN, but not at a command function. Keep those conversations to small talk and only voice concerns when directly asked.
6. Watch what you wear! Oh, ladies, please, please go to FFSC and get an etiquette guide and learn what to wear to what function. They have them and if not, you can find the information on Military OneSource. Here’s one reason why: I was at a ceremony and the incoming (or outgoing, can’t remember) CO’s wife was wearing a skirt just way to short and well, the official party, band and everyone else upfront got a full view of her undergarments (true story). Mini skirts are great for the dance club not a ceremony.
7. Always have a plan and be flexible. Most spouses will tell you that military life is full of the unexpected. Like just last month we had huge night planned for my birthday only to have my husband get called to go on a short trip. UGH! There should always be plan A (the one you want), B and then C. Try as you might to not be to disappointed if you have to turn to C. This is the life we married into and all will be okay if learn to except what you can’t control and ALWAYS have plan B and C in your back pocket.
8. Know who the neighbors are. I will be the first one to tell you that I like to keep to myself but I also know that it is important to know your neighbors and be at the very least friendly with them. You never know, your new next door neighbor could turn out to be your new BFF for the next three years. I will give one reason why… a few weeks ago, I was sick and at the doctor ( younger son with me), husband at work and I forgot my older son had an early dismissal. I ran into another family and they mentioned it, quickly called a neighbor to get my forgotten child till I could get home. Reason enough? I think so!
9. The Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard comes first. I really hate this, I mean really passionately do not like this but it is a fact. In my perfect world me and my children would be number one always but not so. Defending our country and everyone in it, including us comes first. It has been a fight for us many times over and I know my man does his best. I know he loves us and our time to be at the top of list will come someday but not now. Just a fact of life we have to live with and accept no matter how much we despise it.
10. Know who your Ombudsman, FRO or Key Spouse is!!! These people are the go to for everything under the sun. They live by a Code of Ethics that binds them to confidentiality within reason. There are some things, like abuse, they have to report but when you need a shoulder to cry on they are there. When you need a number you can’t find, they have it. When you need to complain about your husband having duty, AGAIN and you could go into labor at any moment, you can call them. You can call them for just about everything. Your ultimate link between you and your spouse’s command.
In closing, I want to thank all the spouses who contributed their thoughts on what they would consider to be a “need to know”. Also, thank you to Wife of a Sailor for the inspiration to write this week’s blog. In fact she has a whole page of acronyms. Stop by and check out her list!
Finally, Let me hear what your “need to know” would be if it isn’t on this list.