A New Kind of Army Wife

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Courtesy of Ashley Broadway

Ashley Broadway, left, and Army Lieut. Colonel Heather Mack, her partner of 15 years

With the end of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and the growing legalization of same-sex marriages come the challenges of adopting military life to new mores.

Take, for example, Ashley Broadway, who recently sought to join the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses at the Army’s Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

“My wife and I have been together for fifteen years as partners, and with the recent repeal of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ are finally legally married,” she wrote in a public letter to the spouses’ association. “I emailed a listed contact for the group and eagerly waited to hear back. When I did, I was incredibly disappointed to be told I ‘do not qualify.’”

She believes her same-sex union led to her disqualification. Broadway posted her missive on the website of the American Military Partner Association, which describes itself as “the nation’s premier network for the partners and spouses of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members.”

Last week, the Bragg spouses’ group posted a statement on its website saying, rather opaquely, that “in response to recent interest in the membership requirements of our organization, we will review this issue at our next board meeting.”

These kinds of things — small, in the overall scheme of things — are often the toughest to change, in the military and other tradition-honoring institutions. They’re not the result of some policy change or regulatory tweak. Rather, they deal with folks’ longtime views of right and wrong and their embrace of custom.

One commenter responded to Broadway’s letter by noting that the writer had served as president of an officers’ wives’ club nearly 20 years ago, when a male spouse wanted to join. “After some serious discussion and changes in our constitution, we soon became a ‘spouses club,’ and our first male member not only joined but became a board member,” she recalled. “So many of the older, retired ladies were appalled and resigned their membership.”

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