Last week, John and I hit our 6-month wedding anniversary! (John teases me about my celebrations; when we were dating, I would mark every month. But whatever; life is way, way too short not to celebrate the milestones, big and small!) In honor of our 6 months together, here are 6 things that being a military spouse has taught me:
1. You’re Not Expected to Know Everything.
It is so very easy to become overwhelmed by all of the traditions, acronyms, titles, and decorum. John was promoted this year (yay!) and I had the privilege of pinning his new rank on him. I’d never been to a frocking ceremony and I was super, super, super, super nervous. Since we had just PCS-ed, John’s ceremony was also the first time I was meeting his co-workers. (Did I mention I was nervous?) Before the ceremony, I met John’s commander. He was so gracious, kind and understanding and walked me through exactly what I was supposed to do. And I survived the pinning without stabbing John or tripping over my feet!
2. Always Ask for Discounts.
As a teacher, I’m pretty used to asking for the educator discount at stores. Now, I also ask if they have a military one. (Did you know that Michaels has Military Wednesday? Bingo!)
3. Checkpoints Will Always Be Scary.
I have an irrational fear of the base gate when I’m entering alone, so much that sometimes I shake when I drive through. I don’t know why. I thought getting more familiar with the military and the base would make me less nervous about them, but so far, no dice.
4. Black Friday at the Exchange is the BEST.
One of the most hidden secrets about the military has got to be the Black Friday sales at the Exchange. I had no plans to shop at all when I stopped at the Exchange on Black Friday– I was just there to use the Starbucks’ wifi and get a PSL. But, when I saw that there were virtually no lines, no one was bashing each other over the head for a sweater, and the insane prices, I threw my laptop back in the car and did some serious Christmas shopping. I saved about 75% off of the retail value by shopping the Exchange on Black Friday. Insanity. And I didn’t have to push over a single little, old lady to get it.
5. Make Sure You Have a Real Marriage Certificate.
That’s not a joke. We thought that the certificate we received on our wedding day was legal. When we showed it as proof of our marriage so that John could update his records and so that I could enroll in health care, we were informed the military wouldn’t accept it. Believe it or not, some states only issue ceremonial certificates; if you want a legal one, you have to submit a special request.
6. Get Used to Shaking Hands and Meeting People.
Since we’ve been married, I’ve been to a C-School graduation, a frocking ceremony, a change of command ceremony, a retirement ceremony, a command Christmas party, and two command picnics. After every ceremony, John introduced me to a lot of people. Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting people, but it can be a little intimidating when the person you’re shaking hands with has a chest full of ribbons and medals. I’ve gotten a lot better at it, though. The key is a winning smile and firm grasp.