The day my husband graduated Officer Candidate School, I remember thinking to myself that I was going through Sorority Rush (a process in which university undergraduate women join a sorority) all over again.
Before the graduation ceremony, they put all of the candidates’ spouses in a conference room and briefed us on how the rest of our lives would play out and what was expected of us. They made us feel like we were an integral part of our spouse’s success, and his or her military career was now the most important part of our lives. It brought me right back to freshman year of college when I gathered in the auditorium with all the other perspective pledges and was told joining a sorority was going to change my life and how it was going to be the most important part of being in college.
So when the CO’s wife basically gave all of us newbie spouses the same speech I heard at Greek recruitment, I had a good idea of what this life was going to be like and I was ready for my redo.
Greek life felt similar to military life right from the start. Acronyms and letters are thrown at you and everyone has a different patch to represent where they belong. Back then, as soon as I decided to join my sorority, they jammed me into a jersey with their Greek letters embroidered on the front.
Military life is eerily similar.
Now as a military spouse, when I arrived at our newest squadron, I was given a t-shirt and other paraphernalia with the squadron’s patch on it. This is a good way to ensure that the new member not only feels welcome and accepted, but also shows the other sororities/squadrons that this one is taken.
You are then put into housing.
Back then, our sorority was housed in a distinct part of the university dormitories so all the Greek organizations could live together. Now, I affectionately refer to this as on-base housing. There is a hierarchy in deciding who gets to live where. Our sorority president got the nicest room back then and now the base CO gets the nicest house.
Living on base is basically the same as living on sorority row; however, there is a little more privacy and a lot more rules in military housing, but the drama is the same.
Once you are initiated and given housing, you are expected to attend monthly meetings.
Back then, our sorority would get together every month for ritual and to plan upcoming events, fundraisers, and discuss super-secret business. These were always business formal events and were always mandatory. Now, our military spouse group holds a monthly “Coffee” or meeting for similar purposes: to discuss squadron events, volunteer opportunities, and more super-secret business.
Though these meetings are far from business formal and mandatory, there is a sense of necessity in attending if you want to feel a part of the “club.” I learned from my experience with my sorority that you get what you put in to the organization and, therefore, I try to volunteer and attend meetings whenever possible. Throughout our military life so far, I have been a student, worked full-time, and also been a stay-at-home mom.
My participation level as a military spouse has fluctuated at these different stages of my life, but again I always make an effort to participate when I can.
In both my sorority and military spouse group, we spend a lot of time planning social events.
One of the easiest ways to foster friendships and build bonds between members of a sorority or a military spouse group is through social events, especially social events that have alcohol. Back then, the sororities and fraternities on campus would have weekly parties and you could always find us sporting our Greek letters at these events. Now, if we go out to the club at the end of the week you can find the spouses sporting the squadron colors or on special occasions the “Lady Bat” dress, a black dress embellished with the squadron logo, a bat and lightning bolt. Back then and even now, we have a lot of themed or costumed parties. These end up being a little more extravagant than our college days because we all have a little more money now.
When it comes to alcohol, I like to think we can all be adults and drink responsibly, but the reality is that this is a huge problem within Greek organizations and the military.
Both entities go to great lengths to protect its members from alcohol abuse; however, there are always people that find a way to ruin the fun for everyone. Back then, our sorority spent an entire year not being able to have alcohol at any social events because of an alcohol violation, and just last year the US military imposed an alcohol ban on all its troops in Japan (where I live) after a fatal accident that involved alcohol.
Back then, one of my favorite sorority events was our annual Red Rose Formal. Dressing up in formal gowns with my sorority sisters and dancing the night away with our handsome dates made all of my fairy tale dreams come to life. I never truly knew how magical a formal could be though until I went to my first Marine Corps Birthday Ball. Now, there is nothing in this world more breathtaking than a group of Marines in their Dress Blues. Tell me I’m wrong and I will fight you.
Back then, as soon as I joined my sorority I was immediately given 100+ new “sisters.”
Like real sisters, we made each other both laugh and cry. Often, we disagreed on many topics, but in the end, we knew that we would be there for each other no matter what. Understanding this concept from the start has really helped me transition into the military.
Now, with every move I know fewer and fewer people at our new location. Asking a stranger for their number so I can use it on my child’s emergency contact form would typically be a bad idea, but asking a stranger, who is a military spouse, to be my emergency contact is a solid decision because I know they will be there if needed.
As military spouses we provide unwavering support for each other because we all know what it is like to be in that position. There is a common bond and sense of loyalty that is built between sorority sisters and likewise military spouses.
It is realizing you are part of something much bigger than yourself.
You definitely don’t have to pledge your college years to letters, and you certainly don’t have to dive headfirst into military spouse groups, but I have noticed that for me, the quality of life and support systems I have formed are essential for surviving and thriving in both of these environments.