The military is filled with acronyms, words, and concepts that sometimes require additional explanation to those who aren’t immersed in the culture – like frocking. Frocking is when a commissioned or non-commissioned officer is selected for promotion wears the insignia of the higher grade before the official promotion date (aka ‘date of rank’). Last summer, we found out that Clay was selected to promote to Lieutenant Colonel and was subsequently offered a position that would keep us in the DC area a little while longer. In order for Clay to transition to this new position in the coming weeks, he had to be ‘frocked’ because his official promotion date is not until this spring.
On Friday afternoon, Clay pinned on Lieutenant Colonel in front of family and friends at the Pentagon. It was a wonderful ceremony filled with personal stories and some good laughs. In attendance were people from almost every duty station – it really felt like a snapshot of Clay’s career thus far. One of the many perks of being stationed in Washington DC – there are so friends from over the years stationed here too! The logistics of planning a ceremony in a building as secure as the Pentagon proved to be headache-inducing at times but it was by far the best promotion experience yet.
Because I’ve been around since his cadet days and the fact that all of his promotion dates have occurred when he was stateside, I’ve been lucky enough to attend all of his ceremonies and have an active role. When Clay commissioned in 2004, I nervously pinned Second Lieutenant rank on his shoulder completely unsure what the coming years would bring. For his First Lieutenant promotion, I had approximately 45 minutes notice that a group ceremony would be taking place on post with the other promotable Second Lieutenants. So all of us wives high-tailed it to Battalion Headquarters so we could pin our husbands. He promoted to Captain with the same group of guys shortly after returning from Afghanistan. And his ceremony for his promotion to Major was thrown together quickly and due to Violet being a stowaway, I was just thankful I made through the ceremony without throwing up.
The kids were able to be involved in the ceremony, which was super important to us. While the Army is their dad’s chosen career, it is still very much a team effort on their part. A lot is asked of military kids and it’s nice when they’re able to participate in such events.
We are so incredibly thankful to our family and friends who joined us on Friday for the ceremony and the festivities that took place later that night. Over the years, I’ve been incredibly proud of my husband and his accomplishments. His ability to do what he does so well and be a fantastic husband and an incredible father is nothing short of amazing. I’d follow that man anywhere!
“But I want my tooth to fall out too, Mommy. IT’S NOT FAIR!!!“, cried my five-year-old daughter as she burst into tears. Her sweet little friend had lost her first tooth that afternoon when they were playing at her house – the two of them had been comparing their wiggly teeth for the past few weeks during their monkey bar runs after school. As my daughter and I clomped home through the snow in our boots, I explained that her loose tooth would fall out when it is ready and she should be excited for her friend, instead of being envious. And that’s when I realized that I should probably listen to my own advice – because guys, there are times when the struggle is real and my envy knows no bounds.
While the green-eyed monster certainly isn’t unique to the military spouse community and social media only seems to intensify the feelings, there are aspects of the military lifestyle that seem to be the ideal breeding ground for jealousy and envy. For every exotic assignment to a tropical island, the mediterranean, or Alaska there is a family receiving orders to Fort Polk in the Louisiana swampland or to Cannon Air Force Base in the New Mexico desert. There are some positions that allow the service members to have a robust life outside of work and other positions that demand so much time that the family members are left begging for slivers of interaction. And for every deployment, there will always be some who come home earlier, some who come home later, and some who don’t come home at all. It’s the nature of the beast, I suppose.
You can only be jealous of someone who has something you think you ought to have yourself.
I’ve been jealous and/or envious for a variety of reasons over the years. I have friends who have lived in some truly fabulous corners of the world while the Army has yet to send us overseas. I have peers who have thriving careers despite their spouses being active duty (totally not discounting their hard work – they’re all badasses who endure a lot of sacrifices to make it happen) while I feel like I got on the wrong train at a different station. I have friends who have planned fabulous events while I am over here on the struggle bus trying to coordinate my husband’s promotion festivities with little notice and changing schedules. I have friends who have parents that visit a lot. I have friends who travel to some jaw dropping places. I have friends who manage to take absolutely gorgeous pictures in their ball gowns while I end up looking like a busted can of biscuits. And I have friends who seemingly have an endless amount of time in the day to accomplish some truly astonishing goals – all while being beautiful inside and out.
I like to think that over the years, I’ve learned to deal with such emotions in a fairly healthy manner. I tend to think of the good in my life and that my life is exactly that – mine. I have gifts. I have talents. And I have many reasons to be grateful. I also remind myself that no one has it all – it simply isn’t possible. And comparing myself to others will always be a losing battle because I do so using the best of others and the worst of myself. Theodore Roosevelt told us that “comparison is the thief of joy” and there are bucket fulls of inspirational platitudes floating around the internet that remind us not to compare our middle to someone else’s ending. On a pragmatic level I know this – but there are still times when envy gets the best of me. So then what?
Honestly? I’m not sure. I suppose recognizing when I let feelings of envy get the best of me is a good start. I’m a complex human who experiences a range of emotions so it’s only natural to be envious from time to time. Such emotions don’t define me but how I react to them certainly impacts my world and how others perceive me. Life isn’t a competition. But it sure can feel like it at times.
Last night was truly a magical holiday-themed evening that culminated with snow falling from the ceiling at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as the National Symphony Orchestra, Ashley Brown, Santa Claus, and the Washington Choir sang We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
Founded in 1931, the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) presents approximately 175 concerts each year. As part of their ongoing Notes of Honor: NSO Salutes the Military initiative, the NSO has offered a free holiday concert in collaboration with the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore for all members of the armed forces, veterans, and military families for the past three years. We were lucky enough to score tickets and so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to attend such a great event.
It was our first time seeing a performance at the iconic DC landmark. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, commonly referred to as The Kennedy Center, opened in 1971 and hosts roughly 3,500 performances each year (check out this NY Times article from 1971 about the structure – “[Washington DC]… is the home of government of, for and by the people, and of taste for the people—the big, the bland and the banal. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, opening officially Wednesday, does not break the rule.”}. Attending a performance at the Kennedy Center has been on my list as a must-do during our time in the nation’s capital so I spent the evening wide-eyed with a big grin on my face.
When we attended the NSO concert on the Capitol lawn on Labor Day, one of our favorite parts was when the orchestra played Armed Forces Salute, which is a melody of all the service songs. Veterans and those currently serving are invited to stand when their branch song is performed. So last night, because the majority of the audience were military-affiliated, the concert hall was booming as soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines sang along. I get chills every time.
We all agreed that it was a spectacular night. I love that our children enjoy attending such events and it truly is a joy to watch them develop an appreciation for the arts.
So thank you NSO and the Notes of Honor program for putting together such a spectacular show for military families. We can’t wait to go again next year (assuming we are still stationed here..ha!).
Over the weekend, we attended a hail and farewell on Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall. The Army isn’t necessarily known for it’s beautiful instillations or spectacular locations but the rolling hills on Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall offer some of the most gorgeous and uniquely American views of both Arlington National Cemetery and the National Mall across the Potomac River. Whenever I am on the post, I’m calmed by the history, beauty, solemness, and unity that hangs in the air.
Hail and farewells are traditional Army events where incoming and outgoing personnel are recognized. While I side-eye some of the more outdated military social practices (e.g. calling cards and officer wives clubs), I’ve thoroughly enjoyed attending military balls, dining outs, promotion parties, and hail and farewells over the years. And last night, while animatedly talking with some of Clay’s coworkers – a glass of cabernet sauvignon in my hand – I had the realization that such social engagements are what keep me going when I am frustrated most with the Army. When I stripped down our somewhat transient and seesaw existence, it’s simply a collection of moments involving the breaking of bread together, camaraderie, and respect.
I am so incredibly proud of my husband – he works hard and gives so much of himself to a cause greater than him. And there is a lot about our lives that is directly impacted by his career. Yes – I am a military spouse because I am married to a member of the military, but it is just one small part of who I am as a person. In fact, I don’t own one piece of clothing with ARMY silkscreened or embroidered on it. All of the spouse-related pins I’ve acquired at various functions over the years are tucked away in a jewelry box, never worn. And I still need to glance at the program when singing The Army Goes Rolling Along at official events and I refuse to use “hooah” as part of my vernacular.
But I also my husband’s biggest cheerleader. I think he is an absolute wonderful human-being, husband, and father and an incredible asset to the Army. I encourage him to compete for difficult assignments. I continue to sacrifice some of my own career aspirations in order to support his. I look forward to the hugs and kisses when he returns from a trip or simply comes home for the day. And I am there for when he simply just needs to talk. I am many things and a military spouse just happens to be one of them.
After the hail and farewell, the few leaves that were left on the trees rustled in the wind as we walked back to our car from our host’s house. Clay held my hand and thanked me for putting up with the craziness of his job. And when I replied, “I love you and support you and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” – I meant it.