Dining Out, Formal Mess, Military Ball — whichever your branch does, there’s probably one coming up in your near future.

On the fence about going to a formal military event? Here are my reasons why you should attend!

Go to the Military Ball to Join in Tradition.

I first learned about the grog and Mr. Vice when my husband served with an Army Engineer Brigade. Mr. or Madame Vice,  is the emcee of the night and the enforcer of the rules of the mess. Printed in the night’s program was a list of etiquette for the night. Anyone could point out another person’s infraction to Mr. Vice. The ball was a night where a Specialist could point out a 2 Lieutenant who had a “uniform violation” of a clip-on bow tie and send him to get his punishment by visiting the grog bowl. It’s a night of good-natured teasing and a more level playing field among soldiers.

The tradition of the grog began with the British Navy. The lore of it is that troops would share their spirits with each other so everyone had some.

Cavhooah.com states:

“The camaraderie developed over the decades, and the various wars and campaigns provided the rare opportunity to share “liberated” spirits with each other. Today’s “GROG” or punch bowl ceremony is a symbolic reflection of this age-old tradition.”

The grog tradition seems to have been carried on by the US Armed forces as well. At our balls, the grog was created through a ceremony, with soldiers playing a part. About 20 soldiers came up, each taking a turn putting something into a giant punch bowl and stating the significance of the item. In Texas, we watched as they poured various alcohol, juice, “sand” (brown sugar) from the previous deployment, Shiner Bock from Texas or “motor oil” (molasses) from the Humvee that carried them through the desert. I loved watching these fairly serious people “acting” and hamming it up about putting a supposedly sweaty sock from the most recent training exercise in a punch bowl and swirling it around with gusto.

The events I’ve been to have also had another grog bowl, this one non- alcoholic for those who aren’t drinking for various reasons. It’s filled with a bad assortment of sodas, fruit punch, pickle juice, the same kind of “sand” and “motor oil,” Tabasco sauce, dirty socks and whatever the local unit likes to put in. My husband and I don’t drink, so this has been the grog we he gets to partake in. 

Go to The Ball to Get Dressed Up!

There is not a lot of glamour to my wardrobe (or life!) these days. Usually, I’m about comfort and wearing what’s clean. Going to the ball gives me an excuse to get dressed up and spend more than 15 minutes on my makeup and hair.  It’s the closest I’ll look to how gorgeous I was on my wedding day. So I’m gonna take advantage of it when it comes.

But what about a dress?! So far I’ve not had a fairy godmother’s help, but I’ve had pretty good luck on my own. Strangely, I’m looking for ball gowns year round. You never know when you might find one, and if you’re a person who likes to go to the ball, better grab that dress when you can. A week before our PCS to Alaska I snagged a gown on clearance at Marshall’s for $25!

My daughter was born a month after this!

I was fortunate to find a fabulous maternity gown that accommodated my giant belly and managed to help me feel beautiful in my last month of pregnancy. I may have got the most compliments ever in that dress, possibly because it was hard not to notice a lady THAT pregnant, wearing heels trying to dance.

One of our writers, Janna, was lucky to participate in a program called Operation That’s My Dress and found a beautiful dress to wear to a military event.

I know many women who have used Rent the Runway and have had great success. They love how convenient it is and that you’re not buying a new dress all the time. There are also lending closets at many posts/bases. If you’ve got one, check your Airman’s Attic or search around to see if there’s a ball gown share/swap program nearby. Recently on our Army Spouse Facebook Page, I’ve seen spouses sharing sizes and offering dresses to borrow for our upcoming balls.

Go to the Ball to Have Some Fun!

I think military balls are fun. I have attended six balls and one Dining-Out in 12 years of riding in the military side-car. There are definitely some that rank higher on my Best Night Ever Scale, but over all it’s a fun night out. It’s fun to meet the people my spouse works with and put a name with a face.

When I was a Reserve spouse, it made me feel more connected to my husband’s unit.  It’s fun to see the Senior Officer put his arm around a Junior Enlisted and sing a song in the hallway. It’s fun to see the military members and guests relax and enjoy being together for a night.

I think I enjoy going to military balls and formal events because it’s something my husband and I get to do together in this military world. So much of our military life is being away from each other and not combining the military world and family. Attending the ball connects us. We have inside jokes and can laugh about toasts gone bad and how our version of “pregaming” is grabbing hamburgers from Wendy’s and eating them in the car because we know the program is going to be looonnng, and we’ll be too hungry waiting. We joke in our house how the military takes something fun, like camping, and just sucks all the fun out. For me, the night of the ball is when they keep the fun in.