Her question made me cringe.
My daughters and I were delivering dinner to my husband at his office late one Thursday night when they asked the question that made me cringe:
“Why isn’t Daddy’s photo in the hallway?”
We’re a Navy family so when we deliver food to my husband, we stop by the quarterdeck to check in. Near the quarterdeck desk are the official photos of the battalion commander, executive officer and command master chief.
You know, the people in charge.
The people with high rank.
My husband wasn’t one of those people.
His official Navy photo isn’t framed with a shiny nameplate near the entrance.
That’s fine with us and honestly I didn’t think that our children even noticed salutes, designated parking spots and patches on a uniform.
But they are aware. They do notice. They ask questions. They are curious about the military and that makes them curious about military rank since it’s a part of their father’s job.
As a military spouse, I understand the basics of military rank. Basically I know enough to not embarrass myself during introductions at a Navy birthday ball.
But what about my children? Should they know the difference between officers and enlisted service members? Should they understand the different ranks and who reports to whom?
Should military kids understand military rank?
I can’t think of a reason why military kids, especially young children, would have a need to understand military rank. I can’t think of a single situation where it would be relevant to their lives.
Now I’m not saying you won’t overhear military kids trying to “pull rank” on each other at the on-base playground.
I occasionally will hear a boy tell another one that “My husband is a gunny so you can’t tell me that” or a teenager say “my dad is really important. His name is in front of our house.”
These offhanded comments make me roll my eyes.
It’s a case of military kids wearing their service member’s rank. We know how inappropriate that is for military spouses so the same guidelines apply to our little ones. And I can’t help but wonder if the child is saying these rank-wearing comments because they’ve heard a parent talk in a similar tone at home.
Here are 3 things military kids need to understand about service members of all ranks.
Be respectful. As a parent, I teach my children to be respectful to all adults. This includes the service members in my neighborhood, the elderly veteran in line at the commissary and their often forgotten bus driver.
I want them to say “yes sir” and “no sir.” These polite habits aren’t only for a select few. Respect is equally given to all adults, regardless of their military rank.
Be appreciative. I hope that one day my children will appreciate the sacrifices of our veterans. No one job is more important than any other job in the Armed Forces. Enlisted? Officer? Special Forces? National Guard? Every person who volunteered to serve in our military deserves to be appreciated for their dedication.
Be independent. Back to my point that military kids don’t wear rank, we need to encourage them to be friends with whomever they want to be friends with. Their parents’ ranks are not a factor in finding friendship.
As a military child, it’s hard enough making new friends at a new school. Let’s not divide this community by rank or military branch.
Now that you know my military rank guidelines for interaction with service members, can you guess how I answered my daughter’s question about the framed photos at the quarterdeck?
I told her plainly that her father doesn’t have one of those 3 jobs. He has a different job at the battalion. Only 3 sailors have their photos hanging there and it’s because they have one of those 3 positions.
I didn’t explain rank structure.
And you know what?
That answer was more than satisfactory for her 3-year-old brain.
Do you think military kids should understand military rank? What do you think when you overhear them discussing rank structure at the playground?