Something happened to me at work the other day that has stayed with me. I work on an Army post with Soldiers. We have one clipboard where all of the Soldiers need to sign in. Then we have a clipboard for civilians, which of course in the context of my job are usually spouses, a few teenages, and contractors on post. So when someone comes in normal clothes and doesn't look like an active duty service member, I ask them if they are active duty or civilian. And most people know the answer to this question.
But some... don't. Like the young lady I had in the room the other day.
Me: Are you active duty or civilian?
Her: My husband is active duty.
Me: But you aren't?
Me: Then can you please sign in on this civilian clipboard?
Her: But I'm not a civilian. My husband is a Soldier.
Me: Yes ma'am. But you aren't, correct?
Really? You're going to cop an attitude because you have to sign a different clipboard? Unless you get up and put on a uniform everyday, YOU are a civilian, I dont care who you are married to. You dont go to the field. You dont deploy. You dont do PT every morning, even in the snow.
I think many of us "Army wives" have lost sight of this fact. Not even including wearing your husband's rank, we feel like we are not civilians. Even I have said, "I cant wait until the day that we can be civilians again." That day is about 720 days away actually. But I mean it in as a state of mind, no more chain of command, no more deployments, no more PCSing, no more strange worry about mortar attacks in Iraq. But I tell Soldiers everyday that I am a civilian. "No sir, I have no idea what that training is, I'm a civilian." I will never assume anything else, I am a civilian, because I'm certainly not active duty. I would never, could never, compare myself to a Soldier. I could never train like they do. I could never make it through BCT. I could NEVER deploy.
So if those are your choices, active duty or civilian, what would you pick?
My father is an Army brat, since the day he was born. His father was in the Army for 20 years. He used to say that he was in the Army. It's more of a joke, since he's far too old to say he was an Army brat. And his father used to give him the small metals for doing things, like shinning his black boots. My father even told my husband that he had a AAM for shinning boots. My grandmother says that she was in the Army too. She met her husband in Germany when he was stationed there and then started the Army journey for 20 years, dealing with multiple deployments to Vietnam and 17 PCSs in 20 years - no joke! They were stationed at Fort Riley (where we were for 2 years) for exactly 9 days. My dad and his brother went out to look for a lawn mower to borrow and come home to new PCS orders. And my grandmother will adamantly argue that she too was in the Army, and I just nod and smile. Maybe if I was an Army wife in the 60s, I would feel differently.
What we do isn't normal, I have said that for a year now. We are very unique. We live and breath Army life. We learn the lingo so we can understand our husbands. We move at the drop of a hat. We can make any house a home with just a few pictures and a Scentsy warmer. We sleep alone. And take our phones to the bathroom so we don't miss a call. We know to check the arms of uniforms for pens before washing them. This is our way of life. And perhaps we are kinda special. But we certainly aren't Soldiers.