Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mrs. Lieutenant Then (1970) and Now (2008)

I read Tanya Biank’s column “Rank, Wives and Friendship: Can They Mix?” on with appreciation for how things have changed in 38 years.

(FYI – Biank is the author of the non-fiction book ARMY WIVES: THE UNWRITTEN CODE OF MILITARY MARRIAGE. The hugely popular Lifetime television series “Army Wives” is based on this book.)

Biank reported, in their own words, the wives of officers and the wives of enlisted men describing forming close friendships among themselves.

In 1970, when I was a Mrs. Lieutenant, we wives of officers wouldn’t have considered being friends with the wives of enlisted men. In those days we understood that it was a class (or maybe caste) system, and we were at the bottom rung of the elite.

I clearly remember that, for our graduation luncheon as wives of the officers attending Armor Officers Basic training, we had to serve sherry. This was so even though none of us AOB wives liked the drink. But the post’s commanding general’s wife liked sherry.

In my book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL, the rank of husbands plays an important role for one newly married lieutenant’s wife. Donna Lautenberg is a Puerto Rican who has grown up in an enlisted man’s family. Suddenly she finds herself married to an Anglo and an officer.

Donna arrives at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, on May 4, 1970 -- the day that the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four Kent State University Vietnam War protesters. And over the next few weeks Donna learns it is not always easy to adjust to new expectations.

In connection with Tanya Biank’s column, today we can hope that a new army officer’s wife who grew up in an enlisted man’s family would not find it as difficult to adjust to her changed position. This optimism appears to be thanks to the lowering of many of the social barriers between the wives of enlisted men and the wives of officers. Another victory for sisterhood!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oficers are no better than enlisted men and women, anyhow. If they're lucky to escape war, the officers who finally crack and break down and cry in that PTSD support group may do so in the arms of an ex-Sgt.