Thursday, May 8, 2008

I Became a Mrs. Lieutenant 38 Years Ago Today

I had planned to write this post about my interview yesterday by Anita Rufus of the Anita Rufus Show, KNewsRadio, Palm Springs. (And I will get to that interview.) Yet, as I typed today’s date for my own records, I realized that my husband officially began active army duty 38 years ago today.

After all this time I can’t remember how I felt the first time Mitch left our furnished apartment in Muldraugh, Kentucky, to be officially on active duty. Instead, here’s what Sharon Gold thinks of her husband Robert’s first day of Armor Officers Basic (AOB) on May 13, 1970, in my book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL:

He'll be putting on his uniform, checking one last time, she knows, that his boots are shined, his insignia pinned on correctly.

She’ll write in her journal today, she tells herself. She hasn’t written anything – the pages all virgin white. Yet today she’ll record her feelings of watching her husband leave to become part of the war machinery.

Robert reemerges from the bedroom in his uniform, carrying his uniform hat, and stands in front of her for inspection. She wants to say "good luck." The words stick in her throat – don't these words imply the opposite is feared? She says: "You look terrific."

And he does look terrific if you like men in uniforms.

He kisses her good-bye at the front door. She stands on the balcony and watches him down the stairs to the car. He waves and mouths "I love you." Then he's gone.

She is without wheels and all alone.

Yet, as I told Anita Rufus in the radio interview, I was not all alone for long. Although the army hadn’t told the AOB class members they could bring their wives nor was housing provided for married officers attending AOB, it turned out that there was a “training” program for the wives of the new officers so we could learn how to be a proper officer’s wife.

Check out my website at and click on the section ORIGINAL ARMY DOCUMENTS. Then if you click on AOB WIVES MAY 19 INVITATION, you’ll see the actual invitation that I received for my first “official” social obligation. And in my next post I’ll talk more of what Anita Rufus and I discussed in the radio interview yesterday: the rules and expectations for the wife of an army officer during the era of the Vietnam War.

Here’s just one excerpt from Mary Preston Gross’ booklet “Mrs. Lieutenant” (Third Edition): “…it is true that a wife has no rank, but she does have position created by her husband’s rank, which is respected and accepted by Army custom.”

Yes, 38 years ago today, I became a Mrs. Lieutenant.

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