A Major Deal in the Works

Last week, Mr. Understanding and I were privileged and honored to be the only civilians attending the promotion ceremony for our neighbor Mr. Nato. An Army engineer, Mr. Nato’s promotion from Major to Lt. Colonel, was held at the NATO base here in Madrid. Along with Mr. Nato, Mr. Tank was also promoted to the same rank. Both men, from the glorious state of Washington, each married a woman from New Jersey. Both men served in Afghanistan; Mr. Tank also served in Iraq. They are very educated men, each holding at least one advanced degree.

Privileged and honored indeed. Can you say the words “exemplary citizens”? Let’s just say that Mr. Understanding and I have never felt so safe, surrounded on a military base by NATO’s finest soldiers from around the world. (The French, it must be said, have stellar uniforms – divine black boots and fancy tall pill box hats in a muted periwinkle blue; frankly, I didn’t think the French had a military anymore so was relieved to see it on full display). But what impressed us the most was the ceremony itself. Speeches were made and artfully delivered. Wives, parents, and children were specifically honored for their support and, at times, excruciating sacrifice (Army wives are t-o-u-g-h). Fathers and fathers-in-law pinned on new rank pins on the gentlemens’ epaulettes, exchanging gold oak leafs for silver*, in such a touching way that it would bring tears to the eyes of even the most hardened pacifist.

This whole ceremony made me think how sadly lacking this custom of promotions is in both the business world and on the domestic front. We might celebrate a new job with a bottle of champagne but really, that’s it. Spouses, parents, and children are not celebrated along with the honoree. The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how wacked this situation is. Something needs to be done.

It is about this time of year, when I am seriously yearning for America, that my need for recognition and affirmation kicks in. We, the Understandings, have, more or less, successfully navigated another move abroad, the house is taking shape, we are adjusting. But immature, crass, and appalling as it is, the plain truth is I need a prize. Upheaval is never a picnic.

Fortunately, the calendar creates such an opportunity when I need it the most: Mother’s Day. This Mother’s Day I am not only putting in for a promotion, complete with ceremony and party – I want a gold star (hello, General!) and the Medal of Valor.* Other members of my family, likewise, deserve medals: Thing 1 merits the Purple Heart for moving in the middle of high school, Mr. Understanding should receive both the Overseas Service Ribbon and Combat Action Badge, Thing 2 the Ranger Tab, and Thing 3 the Parachutist Badge for landing on her feet.

So, this Mother’s Day, I encourage you all to pin medals on your mothers, big, fat, fancy ones for recognition of service. Maybe you will give her a promotion too, the terms of which you’ll have to work out for yourself. In the meantime, CONGRATULATIONS TO LIEUTENANT COLONELS NATO AND TANK AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR FINE SERVICE TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

Q: If you could be given a medal, which one would it be? A promotion?

*not even Mrs. Nato knows why majors get gold and the higher ranking light birds get silver. If you know, write in.
**all of which can be purchased at www.tiffany.com.



Filed under Customs, Domesticity, Family, Friends, Holidays, Life, Star Gazing, Traditions

12 responses to “A Major Deal in the Works

  1. Mrs. Nato

    Expat P: We would just as honored to have you present. Your reference to my lack of knowledge re: gold (MAJ) vs silver (LTC) began my hunt for the truth. Here is what I learned…

    ‘Gold is more valuable than silver. The very beginning of the officer corps is the gold bar of the 2nd Lieutenant …meaning, he has EARNED the GOLD, and has entered the ranks of the officer corps.’


    Simply put…the rite of passage (into Officer Corps) is more significant.

    Oh and…I’ve got mucho love for ya, too, darlin’!

    • Mrs. Nato: What do you think the Girl Scouts would say on this subject? “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” Eventually, new friends become old and gold, verdad? Thanks for the link. I had an inkling that was the case but am grateful for your quest for the truth.

  2. 425Heidi

    How exciting to witness a military ceremony. I attended a Marine Corp Ball once and loved the military traditions. I guess the guy I went with (how I met him is a great story for a ladies night out) was ranked higher than some of the others, because he was required to introduce me to certain people and no one at our table could sit down until he did. It was fun!

    I agree that the families and spouses never are appreciated enough. Last summer, we had dinner at the house of Rob’s boss and several of his coworkers. I was touched when his boss made a special toast just to thank the spouses for putting up with the stress and long work hours. He then served us with a special dessert.

    I am not motivated by medals or promotions. But, I would like a hug of appreciation, a “thank you for all that you do,” and maybe a new car? 🙂

    • 425Heidi:
      There is something about a man in uniform, isn’t there? I have been to 2 Marine Corps Balls – both in South America and am looking forward to going to the one in Madrid come November. Rob must have an intuitive boss! A new car? I consider that the tools of the trade, my dear.

  3. Estoy de acuerdo. Tú te mereces algún reconocimiento por todo lo que haces como compañera idónea de un ‘vagamundo’ y madre de TRES!!!

    ¡Feliz Día de la Madre!

    • Rita: Love the vagamundo!!!! Hoy es el Dia de la Madre que en Madrid! Pero yo soy Americano y estoy dando mas tiempo a mi familia …. ayer ellos limpiaron la cochera. Que regalo!

  4. raftbuddy

    I think military wives and families deserve every bit of recognition they can get and then PILES more! What a treat for you to attend! Happy Mother’s Day to you- wish I could send you a slice of America as your medal. It won’t be long and you will be “home” for the summer!

    • Raftbuddy: PILES MORE is right! I’d love a slice of America right about now. A honkin’ one, as long as it is not dripping in crude oil. While I am home, you will be here – such irony.

  5. Mr. Understanding

    I have to say that being invited to this very private ceremony was one of the most special occasions a I have had the priviledge to attend. The cermony moved me greatly and made me proud to be an American citizen. Family was clearly at the center of the ceremony. Here we have the most powerful military in the WORLD, and yet I witnessed some of our most senior officers rising to accept their well deserved promotions with toddlers underfoot. Go figure. Isn’t this what make America great?

    • Darling, I am just a tad late responding. Thank you for your comment about the toddler (Toddler Tank) underfoot – how could I have not mentioned that???? In the midst of great pomp, she was happily oblivious. The fact that the Colonel plowed right on was proof of his ability not to be distracted from the task at hand!

  6. Mrs. Tank

    Expat Princess,

    Thank you & Mr. Understanding for attending and thank you for your lovely and heartfelt words in your blog! We are truly honored to have shared the event with Great Americans such as “the Natos.” We were also honored to have had such a gathering of friends, family, and other military personnel (from all over the world!) there to share such a special day.

    In response to your question about gold (which is actually brass) vs. silver, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of an official “reason.” Here is what I found out after a little digging:
    In the early days of the U.S. Army (Gen. Washington’s time), NO uniforms existed let alone rank insignia. They began to come up with ways to distinguish rank over time and at one point Majors & Second Lieutenants were the only commissioned officers without metal rank insignia.

    From an Army Rank Insignia website http://www.militaryranks.us/army-officer-rank-insignia.htm
    “From 1872 the majors received oak leaves in gold to distinguish them from the silver of lieutenant colonels and the bars of both captains and lieutenants became silver. In a similar fashion, 1917 saw the introduction of a single gold bar for second lieutenants. These changes created the curious situation (in terms of heraldic tradition) of silver outranking gold. One after-the-fact explanation suggested by some NCOs is that the more-malleable gold suggests that the bearer is being “molded” for his or her responsibilities — as a field officer (second lieutenant) or staff officer (major). However, this explanation may be more clever than correct, for while the insignia for second lieutenant and major are gold colored they are actually made of brass, and brass is a base metal while silver is a precious metal. The rank order thus does not actually conflict with heraldic tradition.”

    So does that leave the question to remain unanswered? I wonder if there is an official historical answer? Keep us posted.

    God Bless You!
    -Mrs. Tank

  7. Oh, Mrs. Tank! I don’t know how you do what you do?! Thanks for your research! I tried getting onto several military sites and for some reason, they did not load. Wonder why? I did know that about GW … he was all for distinguishing his own men on the field. Providing shoes for them was another big deal. Keep visiting!

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