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Should a Spouse Correct a Servicemember?

You know the rules. You may even know them better than most. But you’re not a servicemember. You’re the servicemember’s spouse. Are you allowed to correct another servicemember in public when he is out of regulation?

We’ve all been there: you’re out running errands around town and run into a servicemember whose conduct is so far out of those regulations your spouse is constantly nitpicking over that you just can’t stop staring. Hey, that uniform is a matter of pride, after all (that’s why some find uniform purses so tackalicious) — and the dude that is wearing it in front of you is dissing it in one way or another. Maybe he’s wearing it all wrong (like the JROTC cadets I saw in Army ACUs yesterday with rolled-up sleeves! Silly children). Maybe he is drunk off his rocker and making a scene — instead of conducting himself the way the uniform demands.

Or maybe, like the instance noticed by our friend over at USMC Life, he is wearing it in the wrong setting.

Last night, right before I headed off to bed, USMC Life put this question on their Facebook page:

I saw a Marine in his cammies out in town, picking up his child from the same place my daughter attends. I’m not a Marine, but it felt weird seeing him out (like my pride was hurt) knowing this wasn’t authorized. Should I have said something, even though I am a spouse of a Marine?

When I got up this morning there were more than 100 comments giving this blogger a piece of their mind. Some said “yes.” Most said “NO.”

The Marine Corps’ rules about where and when the uniform is to be worn are more stringent than those of others services, such as the Army. For example, according to this regulation, the uniform may only be worn in a civilian setting during a “bonafide emergency” or in a vehicle to and from duty. They are allowed to wear it in a drive-thru, but they are not allowed to run other errands in it. Members of other services like the Army, on the other hand, can wear the uniform immediately after duty hours to almost anywhere under most circumstances.

So when the blogger saw the Marine picking up his child, she knew it was out of regulation. And since we all know (and have had to wait a long time for our husbands in the past thanks to) the rules, she wanted to say something.

I can see where the desire to do that comes from. Once Upon a Time, when I was pregnant, hormonal, exhausted and ready to hurl at any moment, I witnessed pair of MALE soldiers drive into the commissary parking lot, pull into the “expectant mother” spot, get out of their car and attempt to saunter confidently into the store. I say “attempt” because they never made it. I yelled “EXCUSE ME — WHICH OF YOU IS AN ‘EXPECTANT MOTHER?!'” and watched them do a walk of shame back to their car and move it to another spot (ha!).

Victory! Justice for all! Etc.

I won’t lie — it felt pretty rad to be on the right side of the rules (even though, technically, no parking spots other than “general officer” and handicap are enforceable under post regulations). I felt like Ruler of the World putting the smack down on those little dudes who thought they were going to steal a parking spot from someone who felt as equally disgusting as I did.

But was it the right thing to do? Was it my place? Probably not.

It was a pretty safe assumption to say that neither one of those dudes were pregnant. But I’m having a hard time coming up with another example in which I can say that I will, beyond a shadow of a doubt, know all of the circumstances around the situation to the point that I can correct someone I don’t know for doing something we assume to be wrong. Think of all the stories you’ve heard about amputee servicemembers with injuries hidden under long pants parking legally in handicap spots, only to be called out by a well meaning community member. You do not want to be the person who takes the walk of shame after the wounded warrior shows you his injury.

But that’s not even the biggest reason for a spouse not to say something to an out of regulation servicemember.

The biggest reason, in my personal opinion, is that you are not the boss of him/her. This isn’t a life or death situation. This isn’t a “see something, say something” terrorist watch. This is a regulation. Roll with it.

What do you think? Should a spouse correct an out of line servicemember?

About Amy Bushatz

Amy is the managing editor of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is an Associate Editor. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on NPR and in the New York Times. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

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