[Bella’s intro: If you have not yet read Part 1 from guest blogger and Navy veteran Roger Morris, you can find it here. Now, on to Part 2 and the conclusions, with my thanks to Roger Morris!]
Conversations with a Navy Single, Part 2
Guest Post by Roger Morris
“There is still Singlism in the Navy, sir, and that means life’s easier for married Sailors.”
“Remember I never said there wasn’t Singlism in the military, Seaman Jones. I think there’s a better case for more discrimination against married Sailors.”
“If you want to be an officer, where’s the most prestigious place to go?”
“The Naval Academy, sir.”
“Well, you can’t be accepted to the Naval Academy if you’re married or have dependents. Another one for you to consider. Sea duty is the hardest duty in the Navy, followed by Overseas Duty, right? Standard tour length for either types of those duties is 3 years for a married Sailor with dependents. What’s the tour length for a single Sailor?”
“Only 2 years, you mean.”
“But the married Sailor can still go for just 2 years if they don’t take their dependents.”
“Sure. And while they’re separated, I’m sure most of their pay goes back home to their dependents while the married Sailor must live in the overseas barracks or onboard the ship. A single Sailor misses their friends and their families, too, but he or she does it with their full pay in their pockets.”
“Life still seems easier for a married Sailor to me, sir. They have a department of Family Services for married Sailors.”
“We also have a formal, Navy-wide Single Sailor Program to provide off-duty opportunities for education and recreation. Anyway, what ‘married’ programs also mean is that military families can be supported but also judged by both the civilian’s Department of Child Protective Services as well as the military’s Family Services. How is that easier?”
“That’s double the protection.”
“Yes, and double the scrutiny. Plus, all Sailors with dependents have to submit and get approval for both short-term and long-term Family Care Plans. Single Sailors don’t.”
“They get more morale calls though, right?”
“I’ve never heard of that, but single Sailors often volunteer to let the married Sailors go. Sailors take care of each other, you know. Let me give you an example of how it’s supposed to work. Let’s say you’re in your homeport. Sailors often swap duty days so that married Sailors get to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with their families while the single Sailors get liberty on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. It’s not always possible, but it works out for everyone better that way. After all, what’s open for single Sailors on family holidays? Not much and not for long, right?”
“Okay, sir, but you’ve got to admit that the ‘Command Team Wears Wedding Bands’, right?”
“Well, Seaman Jones, I personally don’t read ‘Salon’ magazine for my information on the military, but let’s call that for what it was: an anecdote. Here’s another anecdote for you: it never stopped me. I was single and enlisted for 12 years. I was single and an officer for 11 years, and I was also selected for O-4. I was also a single Officer-in-Charge at 2 different commands during my officer career.”
“So how did you handle the duties of a ‘first lady’?”
“There are none. The Commanding Officer or Officer-In-Charge is responsible, but the welfare of all Sailors, single and married, and all dependents are also the primary concerns of both the senior enlisted Sailor at the command and of the Command Ombudsman. Personally, I think that if you need a spouse as an edge over your competition to advance, then you haven’t been competitive enough yourself.”
“Well, what about the 10 Myths in Singled Out, sir?”
“I think that most of those misconceptions of single men and women don’t exist in the military mind, and even among civilians, their impacts on service members are lessened. Think about it. What do most civilians say to you every day?”
“They say, ‘Thank you for your service.'”
“Right. So much for being interested in only getting coupled. So much for being immature, irresponsible, scary criminals, or incomplete without a life. At worst, they still think single Sailors might be promiscuous or doomed.”
“What about having no love or being alone?”
“I think most civilians have heard of the camaraderie of servicemembers by now, even though they might not realize that your military ‘family’ can be even closer in some ways than your civilian family. Personally, my military brothers and sisters span the globe, and I’ve been a ‘Sea Daddy’ to hundreds of younger Sailors, even though I’ve never had any children myself. I’m single and yet I think I have a larger, closer family than any civilian I’ve ever met who wasn’t a veteran.”
“And here’s some more to think about. The military is a microcosm of American society, but it lends itself to progressive social experiments. Before President Truman declared racial segregation a “disgrace” in 1948, the Coast Guard had already conducted an experiment on the USS Sea Cloud from 1943 to 1944. Also, when I joined the Navy, women weren’t allowed on combat ships; after several successful trials, they are now. When I enlisted in 1983, the quickest way to get out of the Navy was to say you were gay. ‘Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell‘ came along, and even now that’s no longer an issue.
“So what, sir?”
“The first step to correcting any inequity is to first acknowledge the issue, which the Department of Defense has already done to Congress in 2010 and books like Singled Out can only help. In fact, some small steps have already been taken; for example, grief counseling by the VA and TAPS has recently been extended to siblings, parents and even grandparents of any servicemembers who have died on active duty.”
“It’s not enough.”
“Not yet, but I believe that the military will lead the way in combatting Singlism, just as it did with racism and sexism.
It may take a generation, but what would you consider a generation in civilian life? 50 years? 80 years? With the military’s active duty age limits, a generation in the military is only 20 to 30 years. I believe that quicker turnaround of personnel gives the military the ability as well as the control to experiment and correct its inequities faster. As it did for racism, sexism and sexual preference, I believe the military will once again lead the way to finding an equitable balance for single and married alike. Remember you heard it here first.”
After every military briefing, the senior officer normally provides his or her “Take-aways”. Since I’m writing from home with no one else present (except my dog who isn’t senior to me), let me provide my own for you:
1. If you’re in the military, you don’t have to get married to have a wildly successful career and proudly serve your country and enjoy your veteran days. I did just fine!
2. I don’t dispute that there is Singlism in the military, as evidenced by Dr. DePaulo’s works. There is also discrimination against those who are married and/or those who have dependents. Everyone in the military sacrifices for their country in their own ways. Personally, I feel there is actually less Singlism in the military than there is in civilian life. (And please remember that this is my opinion, but I have experienced both.)
3. I tend to hope that the future of a society without formal Singlism will occur first in the military. I base that hope on the military’s documented history of successes fighting against other forms of discrimination based on race, sex and sexual orientation as well as recent progress.
About the Author:
Roger Morris joined the U.S. Navy to see the world. After 23 years, 184 countries and 34 states, he retired to southern Illinois where he lives alone and enjoys being boring.