The Marine Corps ball is once again right around the corner. Marines and sailors of all ages will gather together at various locations to celebrate the Corps’ most important day of the year — the Marine Corps birthday.
In 1925, the first “formal” ball took place in Philadelphia where the Marine Corps originated.
The ball is a perfect time to get your drink on bond with the higher ups that have demanded so much from you over the past year.
In between the pregame drinks, the dinner, and the dancing — there are many traditions that are upheld at the exclusive event.
No formal military ceremony is complete without the Guard posting colors along with playing the National Anthem to start the night off right. In local VFW and Legions, those who’ve served the Corps’ proudly, often don in their beloved dress blues to continue at that ritual.
2. Escorting out birthday cake
Typically, the cake is escorted out to the center stage for all to see while the Marines’ hymn proudly played. The Marines of present and past commonly stand at attention during this prized and traditional moment.
These Marine march forward as they present the well-decorated cake for public viewing.
3. The reading from the scroll
A Marine will stand front and center, open a scroll containing a brief history of how the Marine Corps was created — reading aloud for all to hear.
4. Cutting the cake with a sword
It is customary at Marine Corps birthday celebrations worldwide to cut a traditional cake in celebration of the birth of our illustrious Corps.
There’s even a formatted script to maintain uniformity.
After the cake cutting ceremony, the first three pieces are presented to the guest of honor, the oldest living Marine present, and the youngest Marine present — a perfect way to display brotherhood and connection.
This tradition is also part of the Marine Corp birthday celebration on the battlefield if possible.
Researchers at Harvard Business School are conducting a study designed to help veterans with disabilities transition into the civilian workforce — and they need more veterans.
Leading practitioners in veteran support and world-class researchers are teaming up with the Ivy League school to better understand the post-separation progress of American veterans. To be eligible for the study, a veteran must meet a few simple criteria:
• Enlisted member within three months of their end of active service, either pre- or post-separation
• Honorably discharged (or anticipate an honorable discharge)
• Have an anticipated VA disability rating between 30-90 percent
• Under the age of 45
The project is being run by Ross Dickman, an Army veteran with 12 years of service as an AH-64D Apache Longbow Pilot who deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Participating vets can earn up to $1,370 to be a part of the study. On top of that, participants can receive life planning education, career guidance, training opportunities, and even further funding toward reemployment.
Joining the five-year study will help some of our nation’s top academics take on the task of helping members of our community reintegrate into civilian life. Harvard emphasizes that being a part of the study will not affect disabled veterans’ employment, education, or other life choices and you can be part of the study no matter where you live.
Personal data collected during the study will be stored in a secure database at Harvard Business School. Identifiable information will not be made available to any external agencies, including the media and any government agencies or employers including the VA and/or the DoD.
To inquire about the study, contact Eugene Soltes at Harvard Business School at 617.495.6622 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ask any young Marine when the Marine Corps Birthday is and they’ll all know immediately that it’s November 10th. Ask them on November 10th and they may be intoxicated and/or greet you with a “Happy Birthday, other Marine!”
Ask any lower enlisted soldier what day the Army’s birthday falls on. They’ll probably struggle for a minute before deflecting the question and acting it like it’s some obscure fact they should know for the board. Here’s a hint: It was June 14th, otherwise known, at the time of writing, as yesterday.
If an Army unit throws a birthday ball, most soldiers there will probably be “voluntold” to go. Marines celebrate the Marine Corps’ birthday in the barracks or long after their military service ends, no matter where they are in the world. Don’t get this twisted. The Army goes all out on its birthday, it just doesn’t resonate with everyone outside of the higher-ups at nearly the same passion as the Marine Corps’
(Photo by Nathan Hanks)
There are several reasons why Marines celebrate their birthday as hard as they do. The most obvious one is that Marines take pride in every aspect of being a Marine. Even earning their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is a tattoo-worthy achievement. The only equivalent thing a young soldier has is putting on their first unit patch. Unless it’s one of the more historic divisions, it’s just — like the Army birthday — another day in the Army.
Another benefit the Marines have is that the following day, Veteran’s Day, is a federal holiday. A Marine can drink as much as they want without fear of missing PT in the morning. The Army would have gotten a day off the next day if it didn’t receive the American flag for its second birthday — or, you know, if people actually celebrated Flag Day.
(Photo by Sgt. Russell Toof)
The Army could take some cues from the Marines on this one. The Corps is fiercely proud of their branch and that’s something the Army should emulate. Hell, Marines are so loyal to their branch that they’ll even buddy up with the Navy one day a year to play a football game.
The Army already does something to this effect on a much smaller scale at the division level. On August 12th, 1942, Major General William C. Lee activated the 101st Airborne Division and said that they had no history at that time but “a rendezvous with destiny.” And it did.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas M. Byers)
That entire week, the 101st celebrates Week of the Eagle. It’s a week of smaller-scale parties and sporting events that bonds the soldiers together — much more than its May 24th’s Day of the Eagles on which everyone just takes part in a painstaking, slow division run. Soldiers in the 101st are proud to wear their Old Abe.
At the unit level, a simple call of “no PT on the morning of June 15th” would immensely spark interest in soldiers. Instead of knife-handing soldiers to go to unit functions, encourage them to enjoy the night in the barracks. Instead of unit runs, encourage platoon bonding events that will most likely end up in drinking. Traditions like having the oldest troop give the youngest troop a piece of cake don’t have to be brought over if the Army just lets soldiers enjoy their day — their birthday.
(Photo by Spc James C. Blackwell)
Even little things, like Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey’s challenge for soldiers to “earn their cake” on the Army birthday a few years back, are a step in the right direction. You could even have fun with the most Army thing imaginable… impromptu push-up contests. Winner gets “bragging rights” for the year and first piece of cake.
It’s wouldn’t take a huge overhaul to reinvigorate soldiers’ interest in the Army’s birthday, thus sparking Army pride.
There’s always a question of women’s strength when it comes to meeting combat position qualifications. The truth is that there are definitely women out there that have the ability, as of now, to meet those requirements.
The CrossFit revolution that has swept the nation over the past couple of years has opened up doors for female athletes. Female CrossFit athletes develop body types we aren’t used to seeing on women, mainly because of existing misconceptions of weakness attributed to gender.
CrossFit is not just centered solely on lifting, but also on general strength and endurance. These women, and others like them, could tear apart the physical standards required for combat positions.
1. Sam Briggs
This English-born athlete came onto the CrossFit scene in 2010 and has been putting her competition to the test ever since. Just taking a look at her barbell stats, it’s easy to see that she would be a contender if she were to sign up for a combat position in the military.
Briggs stands at 5’6″ tall at age 35. She can squat 280 lbs, deadlift 375 lbs, and press 127 lbs, just to name a few stats. In 2013, she won the CrossFit games and became the fittest woman on Earth.
Since all combat positions are opened and gender-neutral, the qualification standards are not lowered for women, so they have to prove themselves against male counterparts. There’s no doubt Briggs could go toe-to-toe with men in any physical component of these standards.
Davidsdottir hails from Iceland and is a two-time winner of the CrossFit Games in 2015 and 2016. She certainly is a force to be reckoned with and is well known for her 255-pound back squat and 310-pound deadlift. Davidsdottir is still competing and one of the most well-known CrossFit athletes.
CrossFit incorporates running in high-intensity workouts while adding weighted vests to the equation. Davidsdottir had to run a mile and half with a weighted vest, swim another mile, and then run another mile and a half — not to mention the endless reps of deadlifts, pull-ups, and squats that followed. Some combat positions don’t even require all of the abilities that these female athletes have conditioned their bodies to perform.
3. Tia Claire Toomey
The reigning champ of the 2017 CrossFit games and has been crowned Fittest Woman on Earth. Toomey is from Australia and is young blood on the scene.
At the young age of 24, Toomey has been able to train her body, in a short amount of time, to accomplish amazing feats. Her barbell stats include a 297-lbs squat, a 244-lbs clean and jerk, a 357-lbs deadlift, and 50 pull-ups in a timed period. She could certainly make an excellent candidate for any combat position in the military.
4. Sara Sigmundsdottir
Sigmudsdottir is also from Iceland and has been rocking the CrossFit competitions — repeatedly ranking third. She’s always in the winds and nearly takes the title every year, but misses it just by a few marks.
Even still, her barbell stats are pretty impressive. Sigmudsdottir clean and jerks 243lbs, back squats 298lbs, and deadlifts 341 lbs. Not too shabby for third place. She could definitely contend in combat qualifications.
One thing is for sure: For some female athletes, the standards never need to be lowered.
The U.S. Army first started training troops in the jungles of Panama in 1916, just two years after the opening of the Panama Canal. Training began in earnest in the early 1940s as World War II in the Pacific necessitated the need for soldiers to be well-versed in the tactics of jungle warfare.
The 158th Infantry Regiment even adopted the nickname “Bushmasters” after the vicious pit viper they encountered while training there.
However, it was not until 1953, as the Korean War was drawing to an end, that the Army finally established a formal school, called the Jungle Operations Training Center. Operations ramped up once again during the 1960s in order to meet the demand for jungle-trained soldiers to fight in Vietnam.
In 1976, the Army realized it would be more efficient to train whole battalions at one time rather than training individuals piecemeal and sending them back to their home station. Those battalions would go through some of the toughest, most grueling training the Army had to offer. The jungle itself provides challenges of its own.
The thick, triple canopy and dense foliage made radios all but useless and reduced visibility to just a few yards. Rain and humidity ensured soldiers were constantly wet and the jungle floor was always slick with mud, which the soldiers had to march and crawl through.
There were tree roots and vines on which to trip or become entangled. Other plants offered worse. A manual written for troops stationed in Panama during World War II listed over 100 poisonous or injurious varieties of flora. Leaning or brushing against the wrong plant could lead to some rather uncomfortable conditions.
If the plants weren’t bad enough, there was local wildlife to contend with. Poisonous snakes and bugs surely top the list of unwanted encounters. Enormous spiders would spin giant webs across narrow jungle paths. Snakes waited in the underbrush and in trees. Jim Smit, a National Guard platoon sergeant and Vietnam veteran captured and killed a fifteen-foot boa constrictor during his time at Jungle Warfare School.
He said it was the best training, short of combat, that any soldier could undertake.
There was also the venomous and dangerous Bushmaster pit viper. Mercifully, the snakes preferred not to make contact with humans, so encounters were rare. Rounding out the dangerous reptiles in the area were the crocodiles that lived in the waterways nearby.
However, the worst encounter for many soldiers was the common mosquito. They are ubiquitous in jungle environments and are a terrible nuisance. Although most bites simply leave soldiers itchy, their most dangerous quality is their ability to carry malaria. In the jungle, a little carelessness can lead to a lot of pain. Failing to properly secure mosquito netting at night could mean waking up covered in mosquito bites. Even with the netting, soldiers weren’t entirely safe. Exposed skin, carelessly pressed against the net while sleeping, would be open to bites.
It was in this setting that the Army conducted some of the best training and created some of the best unit cohesion possible. The terrible conditions forced soldiers and leaders alike to have to think through situations while not being able to simply go “by the book.”
This is because the jungle is a great equalizer in combat conditions. The thick foliage interferes with radio signals, renders night-vision devices nearly useless, and stops hand-held GPS devices from working properly. Soldiers at Jungle Warfare School could not rely on the technological advantages they were accustomed to.
These circumstances were what made the Jungle Warfare School unique, though. While soldiers learned how to operate in the jungle learned many valuable warfighting skills that are difficult to replicate in other environments.
Although not technically authorized for wear, many students who completed the school wore the Jungle Expert tab or patch.
Despite the unique nature of the school and the exceptional training it provided, it was not relocated when Fort Sherman closed down in 1999. Soldiers would not have the opportunity to attend Jungle Warfare School again for another fifteen years, when it was reopened in Hawaii in 2014.
As kids growing up, we played games to pass the time, entertain ourselves, and meet other youngsters our age. It was an innocent time.
In the military, it’s sort of the same — except the games are much darker.
Spending the majority of your day either stuck on a ship, humping a pack in the field, or just bored as hell in the barracks, tends to give service members ampul time to come up with simple, low-cost games to play.
Warning: these do not necessarily reflect the most noble moments of our military heritage — but they sure are entertaining!
1. Don’t Fall Asleep
You could consider this a prank or a game.
The military grants you at least 8 hours of rest per night, supposedly. Don’t be so sure that when you manage to sneak a cat nap here or there that someone isn’t out to get you, even if they’re on your side.
These service members found out the hard way.
2. F*ck, Marry, Kill
This one is probably self-explanatory, but Dale Doback from 2008’s Step Brothers (played by John C. Reilly) is going to explain.
3. No Balls
This game is almost like truth or dare, minus the truth option.
It’s no secret that men and women sometimes talk themselves up in front of their comrades to boost their image to gain respect. We’ve all experienced it at some point or another and maybe even done it ourselves.
The best time to call out “no balls” is after a tough talker makes a strong arm claim and no one else expects it. Seeing everyone’s shocked reaction of “will they do it?” could be priceless.
4. Nut Tap/ The Gator/ Nut Check
The various names of this game are endless.
Out of all the games, this is probably the most dangerous and most painful one. It can leave your fellow gamers fuming at you for extended periods of time, but who cares. It’s hilarious!
This game is typically controlled under false pretenses as getting you mark into proper position can be challenging.
5. Playing Picasso
You’re the last man in the office, as you secure the spaces you notice John Doe has left his CAC inserted (so to speak) into a government computer and he’s gone for the day. Game on!
A Common Access Card (or CAC — please don’t call it a CAC card) is just as important for civilians and active duty members to have in their possession while on base as a driver’s license while operating a motor vehicle. Once you’ve retrieved the CAC, its time to teach the forgetful service member a small, but useful lesson.
Time to create your masterpiece!
These games are meant to be conducted out of good wholesome fun. So don’t be that guy who goes overboard.
What military games did you play? Asking for a friend…
Liberty Suppressors has released a new silencer for those of you who want to go large and do it quietly. And when we say large, we mean it.
Introducing the Goliath for .458 SOCOM.
The Goliath was probably named for the big-assed Philistine from Gath, though it could be someone’s nickname from chubbybunnie.com. Rated for supersonic ammunition, it’s intended to suppress the noise you make when you’d normally be going loud with the modern descendent of the old Trapdoor Springfield bullet.
It’s 10 inches long, 2 inches in diameter, and built with a titanium core and tube. It dresses out at just 20 ounces.
Liberty says the Goliath meters at a “…mere 132.2 [decibels] (including First Round Pop) providing an average sound reduction of over 21 [decibels].” We haven’t tested it ourselves — at least not yet — but since we’re fans of the .458 round and shooting suppressed, we reckon it’s worth a further look.
Liberty sez, and we quote, “The Goliath is not for the faint of heart! Created for the mighty 458 SOCOM, this silencer not only stands up to the size of its name, but also the size of it’s caliber. But don’t think this giant is a clumsy oaf. With an end cap and core made of Grade 5 titanium and a tube made from Grade 9 titanium, the Goliath is a heavyweight hitter in a featherweight class.”
This weight savings really comes in to play when perched on the end of a hog hunter’s rifle of choice. Taming both the noise as well as the recoil of the 458 cartridge, the Goliath keeps you after game all night, instead of home early with tired shoulders and ears. When it comes to 458 SOCOM, it pays to have a giant on your side.”
MSRP on the Goliath (the silencer, not anybody on Chubby Bunnie) is $999.
Liberty Suppressors is a family owned business based in the Peach State, last of the original Thirteen Colonies. They’re known for their work with monolithic core silencers, offering cans from calibers from .22LR to .300 Ultra Mag.
You can find ’em online at libertycans.net, should you be so inclined.
You can watch a great Liberty Cans gear porn flick here.
Here are the specs (you’re welcome):
Goliath .458 SOCOM: 450gr Sub-Sonic in an 11 in. AR-15, Baseline unsuppressed 163.1dB. Suppressed shot 1, 137.3 db. Shot 2, 130.5 dB; Shot 3 131.5 dB, Shot 4 130.6 dB, and Shot 5 is 130.9dB.
Caliber: 458 SOCOM
Material: Titanium tube, core, and rear cap / Stainless Steel Thread Inserts
Weight: 20 OZ.
Approx. DB Overall: 132.2 dB (including First Round Pop)
Approx. DB Reduction: 31 – 33 dB
Finish: C-Series Cerakote
Mounting Type: Direct Thread, 5/8-24 and 5/8-32 Inserts Included
But even now, 18 months after his retirement, there are things that happen in our daily lives that make me smile because I am certain they’re completely foreign to my friends who are married to “civilians.” These are 6 such things:
6. You’ve ever had to say, “don’t you knife hand me!”
I might say this at least once a week. Okay, once a day. That knife hand is fierce and even my 5-year-old will employ it from time to time. Oorah.
And even then, my husband is stressed out. After all, if you are on time, you’re late. I’m not mad at this one (most days). My teenager has also learned this life skill and will do just about anything not to be “on time.”
Even though he’s no longer active duty, we still have duffle bags, green socks that I swear multiply if they get wet after midnight, paracords, backpacks, and those little black, clicky pens. Everywhere. And don’t even think about trying to get rid of those green t-shirts. Just don’t do it.
3. Your spouse, before bedtime, says, “I’m gonna go check the perimeter.”
Firearm strapped to his hip, my husband will go check the perimeter just to make sure we are all safe. I love this, but I don’t think any of my non-military spouse friends get this level of security each night. I’ll take it.
2. When you can’t watch military films or TV shows…
We’ll settle in for a great movie or TV show that has something to do with the military. Then, like clockwork, he pauses the DVR. “First of all… that ribbon is in the wrong place. And look at those stripes! No way does an E-5 have that many years of service. Who is advising this film?!”
You know the one I am talking about. When a movie, TV show, or really great military-related commercial comes on and it touches your veteran. You look over and he/she is biting that bottom lip just slightly, eyes are welling a bit, but they are trying hard not to cry.
You realize it has reminded them of someone who didn’t come home or an experience they may never feel ready to share and you’re reminded of just how incredible your spouse is for signing on that line and agreeing to pay the ultimate price for our country.
And then you say a little prayer of thanks that your spouse is one of the lucky ones.
Movies would have you believe that every unit has a guy nicknamed “Hawkeye” or “Snake” or some other generic, tough name. As fun as films and video games make those monikers seem, it just doesn’t work that way in real life.
In actuality, nicknames fall into one of four categories: Either the troop is a freakin’ legend, it’s the unit’s name plus a number or letter, it’s just a shortened version of their last name, or it’s an insult in disguise.
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Even with all of The Punisher swag that Chris Kyle wore, he never insisted that anyone call him “The Punisher” — even if he was one of the few people on Earth worthy of that title.
Let’s kick this list off with the freakin’ legends. Take Secretary of Defense James “Warrior Monk” Mattis for example. He’s a highly revered military mind within the U.S. Armed Forces and his nickname reflects that.
As is the case with most nicknames, they’re typically invented and popularized by others — not by the legends themselves. These nicknames are even more intimidating when they’re created by the enemy. Chris “the Legend” Kyle, for example, was known as “Al-Shaitan Ramad,” which translates into “the Devil of Ramadi.”
The reason why both Kyle and Mattis have such badass nicknames is because they earned them.
Why, yes. They do call me “Romeo” for a reason…
(Photo by Cpl. Charles Santamaria)
People often confuse nicknames with call signs, so let’s hash the difference right now. Call signs are official unit designations given to members of the chain of command. Sometimes, a call sign will become more familiar than your own name.
If you’re, let’s say, the company commander of the alpha company “Spartans,” you’ll get the designation of “Spartan 6.” The XO gets “Spartan 5,” Senior Enlisted gets “Spartan 7,” and so on. Drivers, gunners, and radio operators can swap out the number designation for D, G, and R, respectively.
“Hey, Ski!” “…which one?”
(Photo by Sgt. Lauren Harrah)
Butchered last name
The next nickname variation is especially terrible if your last name is anything outside of the standard, common English name. Unless you’re a “Smith” or a “Brown” or a “Johnson,” no one is going to try to pronounce what’s on your name tape — no matter how phonetically simple it may seem.
A whole nine letters broken into three syllables — you know, something simple like Milzarski (pronounced Mil-zar-ski) is too complicated. So, most will just shorten it to “Ski.” Good luck if there’s more than one Polish troop in the squad. Not that I’m ranting or anything…
If it’s dumb and it sounds like an insult, don’t take it personally. It’s meant with brotherly love.
Remember when you screwed up?
The most common way to get yourself a nickname of your very own is to f*ck up. Don’t worry if it’s not a record-shattering mistake — people will constantly remind you of what you did. It’s not pleasant and it’s usually a way to rib one another, but you don’t want to be known as “Fumbles” by everyone.
Don’t worry if you get one of these dumb names. It’ll pass as soon as you PCS or ETS.
So check out our list of how the military upgrades your personal style.
1. Physical training
It’s not every service member’s goal to go out and win the Mr. Olympia body building contest — we get it. But since we get physically tested nearly on a daily basis depending on your occupation, we tend to build a little muscle here and there.
Plus, members of the opposite sex tend to like a guy or gal that’s in shape — just saying.
We guess she liked that. (Image via Giphy)
Although the military doesn’t provide service members cosmetic dental work, getting your cavities filled for free is a much better option than walking around with a big a** hole in your #2 mural.
They declare war on cavities. (Image via Giphy)
3. Dress uniform
Since women love a man in uniform, all service members are in luck because you have to wear one practically every single day. Having a dress uniform ready to go in your closet can also save you a bunch of money from having to rent or buy a tux for your upcoming wedding.
See, it’s all in the uniform. (Image via Giphy)
Many of us join the military to escape an unsatisfying life back home. Most of the newbies will end up living in the barracks their first few years in the service until they get married or promoted. In recent years, the government has spent a lot of dinero to improve base housing.
This is a huge step up from when you were sharing a room with your little brother back home.
Base housing in the Air Force. (Image via Giphy)
If you have crappy vision heading into the military, you’re going to end up wearing BCGs at least through boot camp. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can upgrade your spectacles once you graduate and even put in a request to get a Lasik procedure through your chain of command.
It doesn’t look like much now, but give it a few months — it’ll look like freakin’ gold.
We trade the more popular items for other goods or services — if we don’t scarf them down first.
Like we mentioned above, a few of the items that come in the rations are tasty and sometimes hard to find. Troops have their favorites but they don’t necessarily get to choose which meal they get at chow time.
If you happen to come across a package of M&Ms and cheese spread with jalapeños, you could negotiate with a fellow troop to take one of your assigned duties in exchange for the item — it happens all the time.
You can sometimes use an item or two to gain information.
In last decade, we’ve been in conflict with an enemy who isn’t known for their nutritious eating habits like most Americans are. In many cases, Taliban and ISIS fighters have quit their posts due to hunger.
When allied forces leave the wire for a short amount of time, we tend to bring the tasty snacks that come in the MREs, like the almond seed poppy cake or the First Strike Bar, to enjoy during a security halt.
When we come in contact with a potential bad guy who looks like they haven’t eaten in days, handing over the sweet cake could gain trust and lead to the whereabouts of a nasty IED before it goes off.
We gamble with them
When you’re on a patrol base that barely has any electricity, you have time to come up with some original games based on your environment. One of our favorites is good-natured wagers. Betting the strawberry shake you didn’t drink at lunchtime can make the game much more exciting and kill time.
Let us know what you’d barter your favorite MRE for, and check out the very first episode of Meals Ready to Eat above to see how military cuisine is created and tested in high-tech kitchens then shipped to the troops on the front lines.
The day my husband swore in to the US Marine Corps, his veteran grandfather gave me a book that had belonged to his late wife: “The Marine Corps Wife,” published in 1955.
This marked the first of many sources I came across in my quest to figure out Military Spouse 101; as a new, eager (and, frankly, naive) military wife, I was desperate to *prepare* myself for the life that lay ahead of me.
I was met with (what I believed to be) a veritable charcuterie of articles and forums — but as the years went by, I noticed that there was something missing. The spread was inadequate, repetitive, and at times, toe-curlingly tacky; a little more big box store than French boutique, if you will.
There’s a slew of contemporary literature out there for the prospective military bride, but among the twee messages about “stages of deployment” and care packages and (yawn) PCS season, there are myriad mil-nuances that your average milspouse blogger will omit.
The truth is, there’s a delicate disconnect between the star-spangled blogs and real-life immersion in military culture; the too long/didn’t read version is, quite simply, that military life is not real life.
No one — no musty tome or cheery modern blogger —quite prepared me for this.
Granted, I’ve drunk my fair share of military Kool-Aid (and — yikes — tap water) in the relatively short time my husband and I have been married, but I’m here to tell you about the subtext, the small-print: some of the things you don’t hear about military life.
1. It’s not glamorous.
Imagine: Laundry that smells worse than Lake Bandini, dowsing your true love’s blistered feet in hydrogen peroxide, and the smell of MRE farts. And I can’t speak for everyone, but when I think of deployments, I think of cheap wine, popcorn for dinner, and record-breaking Netflix marathons (shout-out to me for slaying six seasons of “Lost” in a month).
Even the movie-montage-worthy highlights are largely unspectacular. I’ll take all the flack that comes my way for admitting this, but farewell ceremonies before deployments are, honestly, rather tedious; imagine a lot of standing around for several irksome hours while bags are loaded and fed-up children cry.
Homecomings happen at relatively short notice, rarely do things go according to plan, and there’s always those awkward hours of families standing around with bedazzled signs, twiddling their thumbs. There’s the heartbreaking sight of junior enlisted troops trudging off to the barracks without anyone to greet them, the readjustment phase that no clipart-laden pamphlet can prepare you for, and work begins as usual within an obscenely short window of time.
It’s worth it — it’s always worth it — but trust me, nothing about military life is glamorous.
2. Your spouse’s job affects your social life.
Ah, the mother of all military spouse debates: does your husband’s rank determine your social life?!
Unpopular opinion: yes. Yes, it does. A military spouse’s life is at least somewhat affected by their significant other’s job. And yes, it’s as asinine and frustrating as it sounds.
By this, I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that there are ranks among spouses —even my quaint 1950’s wife manual states as much, for goodness’ sake — and the (perceived) dichotomy between officers’ spouses and enlisted spouses only exists if one allows it to.
Lore of spouse’s “wearing” rank is, more often that not, just that: social myth. That’s not to say that wives who refer to “our” promotion or bluster when they aren’t saluted don’t exist, but these rare prima donnas are best left to stew in their own little worlds.
We military spouses do, however, have to accept that our significant other’s job will have some degree of influence over our social life. Fraternization rules dictate who service-members can and cannot be friends with, and therefore, socializing as a couple can get a little thorny. We learn to accept that it’s at least expected that we’ll make an effort with the spouses of our husband’s chain of command (I consider myself to be enormously blessed in that I ended up making some seriously fabulous friends this way).
We also become accustomed to pasting on a smile and being ultra-nice to the people our partner tells us to be pleasant to, even when we’re cranky and would rather not be a circus monkey, thank you very much.
3. It’s seriously old-fashioned.
Sorry, not sorry, y’all: military life is pretty archaic. The question of how to solve this is a much bigger one than I can give credence to, so, for now, I’ll stick with a few illuminating personal examples.
Recently, I took a vacation by myself because my husband had to work through the weekend. This simple endeavor was met with pure shock in dozens of my peers: to think, a married woman might travel to a new place on her own. Pass the smelling salts!
At the ripe old age of 26, no single group of people has ever been so interested in my reproductive health or family planning methods — not even my grandparents, and trust me, they are thirsty for grand-babies. Turns out, there’s an unspoken timeline in military marriages, and after a certain point — generated by some vague algorithm involving your age and the amount of time you’ve been married — people feel no shame in asking unsolicited questions.
I’ll also never forget how I read a three-page list of guidelines for wives of Marines attending the annual USMC birthday ball; highlights included a friendly reminder to “remember: this is not about you,” and a subsequent series of commandments forbidding everything to include cleavage, talking before one’s servicemember, and being afraid of utensils. Bless this lady’s heart; the piece was punctuated with a reminder to “HAVE FUN!!”
I wish someone had at least forewarned me of this before I married my husband. It wouldn’t have changed a thing — I like, like like him, guys — but this retrograde aspect of the military is something that I do wish people talked about more openly. Stay tuned for the book to follow.
4. It’s freaking weird.
There are endless quirks to life on a military base; granted, you become accustomed to them fairly quickly, but to an outsider, it’d be pretty easy to see why most people inside the military community refer to it as a “bubble.”
For example, when you live on a military base, gone are the days when you can roll out of your car and into the grocery store in your favorite Spongebob pajamas; there’s a dress code, ma’am, and you’ll be kicked out if you don’t stick to it. You get used to passing gas stations for tanks, helicopters passing overheard stopping your conversation in its tracks, and speed limits that seem more adequately designed for tortoises. You stand to attention (yes, even as a civilian) for colors twice a day. You notice the coded badges pinned to people’s collars, and you understand what they mean.
It’d take a real Scrooge to hate all these strange subtleties, though; it just becomes part of life that, when you’re extracted from it, is simply a little bit kooky.
5. This is a job that your spouse can’t escape from.
Now, when I come home from work, I have the luxury of becoming real-life Amy the moment I clock out. My husband? Not so much.
Servicemembers are paid by rank, not by the total amount of hours worked (which is arguably criminal if you look at the military pay rate, especially for junior enlisted ranks). Thus, they’re never “off the clock.”
This bleeds into everyday life, even when they’re not working. They’re never not a Marine, a soldier, a sailor, or an airman.
If I could only take back the number of hours I’ve lost waiting for my husband to get his weekly haircut, I could probably take a short sabbatical with them. He shaves every morning that he has to go out in public (save for the cheeky vacation scruff of 2017, RIP). He receives work-related phone calls at all hours of the day, seven days a week. Vacations are a precarious endeavor that are dictated by ops temp o, deployments, and leave blocks — not simply a whim and accumulated hours.
Furthermore, the military life whittles at the character of the person you married. In my case, this has been all positive; my husband has truly blossomed since he became an active duty Marine, and I wouldn’t trade any of the lost hours (or facial hair) for this immaculately-sculpted person.
Regardless, cheesy stories aside, no-one ever tells you that the job will mold the human you wed in ways you weren’t anticipating.
6. It does take a specific type of person to be a military spouse.
In the beginning, I naively thought that marriage would be easy (that was my first mistake).
The second, larger mistake was ardently believing that anyone could be successfully married to a service-member if they wanted to. I truly believed that grit and love were the only necessary components of a lasting military marriage.
Now, I look at long-term military spouses with nothing less than awe; to weather decades as a military spouse is a truly incredible feat.
You have to be tolerant. You have to be flexible. You have to be resilient. You have to be extroverted, or at least sociable enough to fool all the pools of new people you’re thrown in with on a regular basis. You have to be willing to make sacrifices to your career — because fulfilling, military-spouse-proof, work-from-home jobs don’t grow on trees (whatever Susan’s pyramid scheme would have you believe). You have to be capable enough to manage a household single-handedly, but humble enough to be sidelined in social situations.
Could I do it? I’m not sure; time will tell.
What I am sure of is that military couples who manage to maintain strong, healthy relationships over long periods of time deserve unadulterated respect.
The bottom line? Military life is a life of sacrifice, however large or small, for servicemembers and their families.
Admitting this is not martyrdom, it’s an admission of truth in a world that encourages marriage without making it known that civilian wellbeing is not a priority.
Ultimately, I think if we talked about this elephant in the room, instead of laughing at it and labeling it a “dependa,” we’d see some real change in military family culture.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.