Wednesday, April 24, 2019

When Your Husband is the Oldest 2ndLt in the Marine Corps

Actually, I'm not sure if Nick is THE oldest, but if he isn't, he's definitely up there in the rankings. If you're not familiar with how military rank structure works, let me try and explain it really quick in layman's terms.

If you're familiar with the military, you can skip this entire part...
When a person decides to join the military, they have two routes, the Enlisted route or the Officer route. To enlist in the military, most branches only require a high school diploma or equivalent (education wise). To become an Officer in the military, a college degree is necessary. Now there are things like warrant officers and limited duty officers that do not require a college degree, but let's keep it simple. The way rank structure works, the Enlisted service members are technically ranked lower than any Officer. That means an enlisted service member who is an E9 (the highest rank an Enlisted service member can be) is still outranked by an O1 (the lowest Officer rank). I know you're probably thinking, "So a 38 year old E9 with 20+ years of service is outranked by 23-24 year old O1 with barely 2 years of service only because one has a college degree?!". The answer is yes (and the O1 makes almost the same salary...a little more). For the most part, most senior enlisted service members become respectful mentors to young officers as they learn to navigate the ins and outs of the Marine Corps, their jobs, and their junior enlisted Marines. If an Officer has a bad senior enlisted "right hand man", then that Officer's job is usually 10 times harder. Also, I should add as a side note, there are MANY Enlisted service members that have college degrees. There are a ton of reasons why a service member may have a degree and not be an Officer. But that is another discussion for another time.

Nick enlisted in the Marines right out of high school. His Enlisted career spanned roughly 16 years before he commissioned as an Officer in the Marine Corps after completing the MECEP program (Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program...just google it if you're like "wtf is that?"). Nick was a MSgt...just ONE rank away from being at the very top of the enlisted rank structure.
Promotion to MSgt

I'll have to do a WHOLE another post about WHY he chose to sort of take a "demotion" (term used loosely). The fact of the matter is, he is currently a 35 year old 2ndLt. The average 2ndLt in the Marine Corps is a newly college grad (23-25 years old). Also, I'll do a post sometime about the MECEP program, and how we ended up at Texas A&M.

Some pics of Nick from the early 2000s when he was a junior Enlisted Marine. The Marine Corps didn't even have the signature MARPAT cammies yet (the digital cammies)!

So what is like being a Marine family, when your husband is a 35 year old 2ndLt that is prior enlisted? Here are the 3 biggest things that I have noticed in this season of our life...or his life...

The Marine Corps has a fraternization policy, so hanging out and being friends with people outside of your rank is usually frowned upon. There is a very thin line when it comes to being friends outside of work and being professional. That means Nick's "peers" are in different life stages than us. Most 1st and 2ndLts are either single or newlyweds (married under 5 years). Meanwhile, we have 11 years of marriage, 2 kids, 28 years of service (between the 2 of us), on our 3rd mortgage, and spend way too much money on anti aging products (ok, that last part is just me). We're basically geriatric. 
One of the few students at A&M's graduation with 2 kids in tow 

The Marines that are in the same life stage as us are literally Majors (an entire 3 ranks higher than Nick). We have made amazing friends with fellow 2ndLts and 1stLts, but there is a definite "life gap". It feels weird when I'm talking about the emotional rollercoaster my pre puberty 9 year old is going through, and the issues with getting my 5 year old to sleep in his own bed at night. I'm pretty sure 99% of the time, they don't care, and are just being nice to me by humoring me. I pray to God that my kids don't discourage them from having children one day (if that is in their future)!

He can hang out with his senior enlisted Marines or some of the older Officers, as long as both parties can separate work from pleasure. Some of our BEST friends were Nick's 1st and 2ndLts when he was an enlisted Marine (SSgt/GySgt). Those friendships worked for us though, because Nick was good at separating work from pleasure. Those Marines are now all Majors. He could drink one weekend with his platoon commander, and go to work on Monday, and keep it professional as if nothing happened that weekend (and we had some wild weekends). The balance can be tricky though.

Most of Nick's peers are at their very first duty station. I don't even know how many units Nick has been with. At 18 years of service, it's a lot. That's quite a bit of experience that Nick has that his peers do not. You can't teach experience. Nick has figured out "the game". Let's face it, if you've ever served in the Marines, you know that a lot of "the job" is a big game. Once you figure out how to play, life gets easier. Most Marines don't figure that out till much later in their careers. I was talking to the wife of another 2ndLt, and she told me how stressed out her husband was all the time. He was working really long hours, and just trying to keep his head above water some days. She felt like she never saw him. I almost felt bad telling her that Nick was able to leave work to come to things like our kid's award ceremony at school, or leave early because I had a hair appointment and I needed him pick up our son at the bus stop. Her husband probably could too, but he hasn't figured out "the game". Also, he hasn't done "his time". Just like any job, you have to put in your time.... With time, comes experience. With experience, comes the answer to the game of Life  "The Marine Corps". I guess this also ties into the the first thing I mentioned...we are in a different stage of "life".

18 years of service, 3 combat deployments, a tour on the drill field, and a few summers as a Sgt Instructor at OCS...add OCS (as a candidate) and TBS to that mess...Nick's body is pretty wrecked.
Nick and his friends on his first deployment to Iraq
Everyone seems to love the photos of Nick yelling at recruits.

Nick in TBS
Nick as a Sgt Instructor at OCS

He now wears hearing aids (wear your ear pro Marines!), has a plethora of back and neck issues, suffers from insomnia (most likely from his TBI), and complains that random limbs go numb sometimes. He's no spring chicken, and compared to his peers, he's basically a grandpa. I constantly have to remind him that he doesn't have anything to prove. But, of course...he's a Marine, and Marines ALWAYS have something to prove. He takes pride in being able to PT with his younger counterparts (and being able to keep up). What his younger counterparts don't realize is the amount of recovery time for him is double (triple...sometimes quadruple) what theirs is. He literally came home after a combat fitness test (CFT), bragged about how much better he did than all of his younger Marines, and practically died on the couch from pain and pure exhaustion. There's nothing I can say to make him slow's a Marine thing.

There are a TON of other things that we notice about being an older company grade officer family, but these are the 3 biggest things that I notice. It's definitely been an adjustment for us, and for me especially. We are thankful, grateful, and blessed to be at this point in our life. We can physically see what God's purpose has been for our family in each season of our life, and we are excited to see what he has in store for our future. We are counting down the years till RETIREMENT, and I know it'll be here in the blink of an eye. I am trying to soak in all the adventures and the amazing friends we have met along the way....while simultaneously trying to raise normal-ish kids.

I'll probably do a few more posts about some other small differences being in this season of life. I literally could write a novel on it. Anyway, my goal is to write one post a week on this little blog of mine, so we'll see how that goes!


  1. It has been a LONG time since I saw you blog! It was great to read.

  2. You forgot to mention he’s an amazing boss and leader.

  3. This was awesome!! He was the Best Marine I served with without question! Semper Fi


I appreciate every, single comment! Thanks for the love!