A Part of the Herd: Getting into DEERS

Sitting in my car, I wait for my wife to come pick me up. I fiddle with the radio station, tuning out whatever station comes in, seeking “Soundtrack to my life” anthem music to no avail.  It’s a ritual I’m used to, and like any habit, it is a mixture of bittersweet: more bitter than sweet. This was to be the last time I would be on the outside, looking “in” at the military gate.

Usually I am out of the car, peering wistfully at the booth where the MP checks ID’s, averting my eyes from traffic that flows in and out like the tide. I pretend I am on a geological survey and that the particular gravel along this stretch of curb is of rare fascination, striations surely worthy of a thesis paper. Soon I am overcast in gloom, realizing how awkward and silly I look: a 42 year old woman who has to wait to be picked up by her wife because she isn’t allowed in on her own volition. Today it is different.

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We awaited our DEERS Military ID appointment, with me gripping the edge of my seat. Four soldiers filed past me, determined to see the clerk behind me. I couldn’t help but to overhear the soldier’s plea to the lady at the DMPO counter. “But I don’t understand why we can’t get processed. This affects our marriage and our rights.” He said. I could discern from the feigned ignorance, this lady was not going to budge, and trotted out the excuse, “Well, we didn’t get an email or authorization from this. As soon as Indianapolis tells us to go ahead, we will, but…” while in the soldier’s desperation, he fumbled to find the right question that would unlock this illogical puzzle. Inwardly, I began to spiral, unable to turn around. I wasn’t sure I heard everything correctly, and of course, I was in no position to help. We have waited so long for this moment to finally be part of the herd, only to be led astray again.

My wife came back from the restroom, noting my look of panic. She is used to seeing this look on me. It is one of my most common looks next to hysterical, maniacal, and pensive.  If she married me for my looks, these weren’t the winners.

We were called next, by a very overworked gentleman who had “checked out” emotionally back in ’92, pending late fees. We timidly sat down where we were informed matter-of-factly that another couple before us wasn’t able to be processed for ID’s because the computer wasn’t cooperating. Apparently, there was still a kick-back message stating it did not know how to wrap its circuitry around the algorithm of “wife and Wife” or “husband and Husband”.

A few uncontested moments later, and 1 photo, and we were issued my first Military ID. Well, my temporary photo ID was better in Korea, but this is permanent. No more waiting outside the gate year after year, pretending to do geological rock surveys of the street gravel. No more waiting in the car with the windows cracked while my honey goes to the commissary. No more class 7 “Sneetchery” where those with Stars upon thars get to have access to health-care, daycare, access to the gym, and dry cleaning with Free Insanity Zumba workouts.

As we walked out of the office, we approached the 3 soldiers still waiting for their friend and my wife asked if he was still having trouble getting DEERS.

“He’s still in there.”

“We went to that window over there. Ask for Mr. Grey. He knows how to handle this delicate situation.”

It still feels surreal, having a real and tangible proof in laminated plastic of your acceptance into the herd. It’s a feeling I could get used to.

*** I have a very special group to thank for their love, support, and the ability to move mountains: AMPA (American Military Partner Association)  They have been the best source of strength and support for LGBT Military Service members and their spouses and I couldn’t have made it without them.  www.militarypartners.org

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