We need a new word in our vocabulary.
If you’ve been lucky enough to be married to the military for a while, you’re part of a special group of people. The Marine Corps motto fits us very well: “The few, the proud….”
But it’s not all sunshine and daisies. “Alone” is a word attributed to this life. You’ve probably been alone often. You’ve probably had times where you were raising your kids alone. You’ve probably moved from place to place: sometimes alone. But that doesn’t mean “lonely.”
I hope you have been able to meet a variety of people who you can call friends. Some even belong in the “family” category. These are people who are as resilient as you are. And even if you don’t consider yourself strong, they’re there for you.
There are also multiple resources at your duty station as well as your community. There are people everywhere who want to help. Some of those people have been in the military for a while. And the word that I originally heard to describe those people was “old” spouses.
Now we’ve progressed to “seasoned.” I can’t agree to that terminology. “Seasoned” sounds like I’m weathered and done. “Seasoned” reminds me of phrases such as “in season” or “out of season.” Not many people want that phrase applied to them. I understand that the original intention was a reference to the fact that we are experienced, as in a “seasoned traveler,” but it doesn’t do us justice.
So back to my original statement: we need a new word in our vocabulary. We need a word or an acronym that captures all that we are. The military is full of memorable acronyms so why hasn’t someone created one for the military spouse? Our children are called “BRATs” in the most endearing way. While it was originally attributed to the British Army who created the acronym to designate a family member who was allowed to travel abroad (British Regiment Attached Traveler), it has become synonymous with a child who is resilient.
That means that ALL dependents were BRATs at one point. Then we spouses became the designator “30” — the number attached to the active duty member’s social security number. It’s terribly sexy, I know, but then again the government is all about efficiency.
Somewhere along the way spouses became “seasoned.”
One of my favorite (if antiquated) synonyms for a spouse was the C.O.W. If an active duty spouse was in command, his wife was called a “C.O.W”- Commanding Officer’s Wife. The fun side of this was that there could be cow parties with accessories. Cowbells were given as presents. While it is a tongue-in-cheek term, it obviously does not apply to all spouses. Enlisted spouses and men are omitted from this.
Again, I wonder: where is our notable name? People comment that being a spouse is the toughest job in the military.
When you join the military, you can either be a squid, a grunt, a jarhead or a zoomie. Military jobs have fun names too.
A backseater in the F-15E is called a WSO (“Wizzo”).
An “Eagle Keeper” is a maintenance crew chief of an F-15.
If you’re so inclined, you might want to be a “Crunchie” — an 11B Infantryman in the Army. Again, fun and humor are attached to names.
You might also be lucky enough (or unlucky depending on your thought process) to get a call sign. Most of these come with a story that isn’t shared with civilians. That adds to the mystique. And it’s fun to try and create your own tale to accompany the name.
While we were at Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nev., we had graduation ceremonies every six months. At the dinner, we would see the call signs given to the students. We spouses would laugh at the names that complemented their last name. This ceremony inspired us to give each other call signs. While it was great fun, it didn’t solve the problem of a universal call sign or designation for spouses in general.
Spouses are left with being “seasoned.”
It was meant to be an honor bestowed upon us. A title that signified to others that we were fountains of knowledge about military life. We are the keepers of customs. We are well versed in military etiquette. We are PCS experts. We are mentors to spouses who have just started their journey with the military.
We may be all that but we are also in need of a name befitting our military and their traditions. It seems unfair to me that the only name that has been created for us is “seasoned.” I may not have the answer but I want others to start asking for a comprehensive term that better describes who we are as a group.
We deserve something better. Right?