I am an Enlisted Spouse. I have a dear friend who is an Officer Spouse. A high-ranking Officer Spouse. And she has completely changed my view on how spouses who are married to folks of different ranks should behave and relate to one another.
I remember the days when my husband, a Marine, was a brand new NCO and we were invited to a party at the house of his Gunny at the time. His wife was going to be there, and I was terrified. I don’t recall if I was so scared because I had any bad experience with spouses of “higher rank,” or if I was simply intimidated because in the Marine Corps the rank of “Gunny” is kind of a big deal for enlisted folks. A retired Marine once told me it was the most respected and important rank in The Corps.
But I do know that now, as that wife of a Gunny, I work hard to make sure that no spouse ever feels uncomfortable around me. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you the rank of most of my friend’s husbands. This is partly because I really do not place any judgment on them based on that, and partially due to my horrible ability (even after 13 years of marriage and being pretty immersed in military life in my volunteer work and professional life) to remember the rank structure. Now we are stationed on an Army post…so true, I don’t have a clue what rank is on anyone’s uniform.
I know what neighborhood they live in on the post. This gives me a clue. But other than the fact that I covet the extra space they have or a shiny new appliance, what neighborhood they reside in doesn’t make a bit of a difference either. (By the luck of the draw, our current housing means that we have friends of “lesser” rank with nicer houses than we live in.)
Rank issues have always been a part of military life, of the military spouse culture, and if we are completely honest … they should be. For the military, it serves one purpose, but for the military spouse, that “purpose” SHOULD be completely different.
“Don’t wear your husband’s rank … you didn’t earn that, he did!” We have all heard it, and we have all probably said it. For the most part, I find that statement to be true. We, as spouses, should not think of ourselves any better than another spouse because of our service member’s rank, BUT that doesn’t mean that we should just ignore it altogether.