There are so many wonderful aspects of military life. And after taking an informal poll of seasoned spouses from across the military services, I found that there are 8 events that every military spouse or significant other should experience (at least once).
8 Events Every Military Spouse Should Experience At Least Once
While this is an understated affair without most of the pomp and circumstance, it is still an important event in every enlisted service member’s career. There is at least an officer, a flag and the person taking the oath. What makes this event special is the fact that there is a person who is willing to defend our country. If it is a re-enlistment, that person has again committed themselves to our nation.
A promotion is an advance in rank and shows the ability of that person to perform at the next rank. The highlight is when the person has his or her rank pinned-on. Most kids have fun with this step, especially if they get to punch on the new rank. As with the previous event, the size can range from small to a huge party.
There are various types of graduations out there in the military. For the enlisted side of the house, their first introduction into the ranks is graduation from Basic Training. Seeing those troops march across the parade field is a feeling like none other. And for those SOs, it may be the first time they are introduced to the military. Welcome!
Then there is graduation from various training schools. These are similar to a high school or college graduation in terms of speakers and walking across the stage to receive a diploma. I’m not trying to diminish the impact but it would help if you knew what to expect.
If you want something with more pizzazz, try to attend a service academy graduation. This is a multi-day celebration with parades, fly-overs, ceremonies, as well as the actual graduation. I’ve been lucky enough to see one before I was married, and I’ll have the privilege of attending another when my daughter graduates in 2019.
Change of Command
I’m sorry to say that I hadn’t attended one of these until my spouse took command but I wish I had. It is extremely impressive to see all the troops lined up in the back of the room during the ceremony. Also, you get to hear all the great things that the people are doing in that environment as well as the history of the unit. And if you’re super lucky, there is a huge American flag hanging in the background. If that doesn’t make you sing your branch’s song louder, I don’t know what will.
Nothing says “military” like watching the troops come home. We’ve all seen the videos and the photos from these military homecomings but the emotion is palpable when there in person. My kids loved making signs for their dad. And the anticipation that the day was finally here was almost too much for them. It is exhilarating to see them come off their transport.
But don’t forget that you don’t need to have a loved one deployed to attend one. You can go and support those spouses or SOs who do. As an example, you can take photos of the event for them so they can concentrate on giving that person a big hug and kiss when they see them.
Many spouses will tell you that nothing fosters a sense of belonging in this spread out community like a social. These can range from coffees to unit events to straight up parties. This is a great way to meet and know others in the same boat. But don’t feel pressured to attend; there is no requirement to do so.
When I finally decided to attend an event, I stuck to my spouse like glue. It wasn’t until a few years later that I finally felt comfortable enough to spread my wings on my own. Just remember: if you would/wouldn’t do something in the civilian world, the same applies to military life.
To me, this is the saddest/happiest occasion ever. It doesn’t matter if I knew the person or not. People come from near and far to celebrate the person who is retiring. Major events are recapped and then there can be a flag folding ceremony. This is where I lose it. As a spouse, you understand how lucky that person was to be receiving a flag while alive; you are grateful for that.
In spite of all the somberness, there can be levity too. This may come during the stories told about that person. I usually find that when the spouses come up to receive their retirement pin, they try to diffuse the situation. Once, I heard a spouse call to her husband at the end, “RTB!” Which means “return to base.” She was ready for her spouse to be home.
Military Ball/Dining Out
To counter the last number, you have to recognize that a military ball is something to behold. This is a chance for you to dress up in formal wear and enjoy a night out. There is a cocktail hour beforehand and dancing at the end. In between, there is eating, socializing and listening to the speaker. And having your spouse in uniform? I don’t know that there’s anything better.
Even though I’ve listed 8 events, there are, of course, many others to experience. They range from volunteering to visiting a military cemetery. You are a part of something bigger when you marry into the military so take advantage of the special opportunities you have. You’ll remember why your spouse is doing this and you may feel a part of it too.
You can read more about Karen’s adventures as an Air Force wife by clicking here. NextGen MilSpouse readers love her comparison to military life and a gym membership along with her encouragement to live outside your comfort zone.