Thursday, March 20, 2008

Etiquette Rules for the Wives of Military Personnel

I found Whitney Bailey’s article on about what to do and what not to do while accompanying your uniformed husband quite interesting.

In my forthcoming book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL the four main characters of the novel in the spring of 1970 must learn what to do from the pages of the booklet “Mrs. Lieutenant” (Third Edition) by Mary Preston Gross.

Some of the rules in 1970 -- including “outlawing” the wearing of pants -- seem somewhat silly in hindsight. Yet I know from personal experience that following the rules of military etiquette can save people from embarrassment.

I’ll never forget when a captain said to a visiting colonel at religious services: “Colonel, what’s your first name?” The rest of us gasped at this audacity.

I repeat Whitney Bailey’s list here in hopes that her advice can save other people from embarrassing situations. (FYI – We didn’t have to worry about proper cellphone etiquette in 1970.)

Whitney Bailey’s list from


Walk on your husband’s left side so he can salute others.

Refer to your spouse by his first name or nickname, or as “my husband.” Do not refer to your husband as “Capt. Smith” or “the Captain.”

Stand at a public function or ceremony when the senior officer enters and is announced. This applies to everyone in attendance.

Offer your husband an umbrella in the rain, but only if it’s black. He’s not allowed to carry any other color.

Push the baby carriage or stroller so your spouse doesn’t have to. It’s considered “unmilitary” to do so while in uniform.

Help your spouse carry any packages or bundles to make it easier for him to salute. (Are you wondering if a man made up these rules so that wives would have to do all the heavy lifting?)


Show public displays of affection, except at homecomings and goodbyes. This includes kissing and holding hands.

Offer your spouse a piece of gum. It is not “military” for him to chew it. The same goes for smoking while in uniform.

Allow him to put his hands in his pockets unless he is placing or retrieving an item.

Refer to your husband’s orders as “our orders” unless you are a service member yourself.

Offer him food or drink while he’s walking. He should not be eating, drinking or using a cell phone while walking in uniform.

Refer to others in the service as “sir” or “ma’am,” even if your spouse does. Refer to them by their rank and last name (“Capt. Smith”).

Allow your child to wear your spouse’s uniform for Halloween. Uniforms bearing insignia, badges and tabs should be worn only by authorized personnel.

No comments: