His and hers?

Military husbands often defy stereotypes but don't want to be treated like women

Military Spouse Appreciation Day is May 8, a date intended to recognize all military spouses. However, male military spouses sometimes feel overlooked by this day of recognition. One website dedicated to male spouses, MachoSpouse.com, is promoting the first Male Military Spouse Day this week as well (May 7). Some military husbands I talked to, while agreeing that most spouse programs don’t quite fit them, were ambivalent about the need for their own day of appreciation.

Male spouses are getting more attention these days, said Army spouse Dave Etter, the host of a podcast called Male Military Spouse Radio.

“With the increased acceptance of field grade (positions) being filled by women, the large strides gained by the LGBT movement, amplified by the invention of social media, guys as spouses are being identified,” Etter said.

His Male Military Spouse Radio broadcasts cover the expected topics, like grilling techniques, finances, and one simply titled, “Beer Beer Beer.” Another, however, was all about wardrobe for formal military events, including the dos and don’ts of evening wear: Do wear a T-shirt under a dress shirt. Don’t wear argyle socks with a tuxedo. He and his guest even discussed the finer points of evening gowns, which can be worn on some official occasions by their active-duty wives.

Military husbands defy some stereotypes, but they don’t want to be treated like women.

Etter said spouse appreciation events usually try to include men, but with limited success. Corporate sponsors know that less than 10 percent of spouses are men, so tokens of appreciation tend toward the feminine.

“I count on my yearly manicure in May to maintain my leading-man stature and appearance,” joked Army spouse Chris Field, a professor of philosophy.

“I’d appreciate a male spouse day, sure,” he said, “and a new set of grill tongs would be great.” But Field said he isn’t quite comfortable with the idea of needing special recognition as a military husband, fearing a separate day would be divisive.

Chris Pape is a videographer who created MachoSpouse.com, one of the promoters of this year’s Male Military Spouse Day. When Pape was chosen as the 2014 Air Force Spouse of the Year as part of the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year competition last May, he was given a coin. It was pink. He and the spouse of the year winners from each of the service branches, as well as the overall Military Spouse of the Year, were honored at a luncheon in Washington, D.C. Immediately afterward, the other honorees — all women — were invited to another event at the White House. Pape was not.

“I understand it was for a Mother’s Day brunch,” Pape said, adding slyly, “I assumed, since I wasn’t invited to the Mother’s Day brunch, that I might get an invite for Father’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or any other event, but nothing.”

Pape shrugs it off, admitting the majority of male spouses don’t need or want their own day. “But we thought it would be fun, so we’re running with it,” he said.

Etter had some suggestions for the celebration. “Now, if there were a Military Spouse Appreciation Day geared toward guys — with female spouses welcome, of course — the vendors who sponsor would [be] the likes of Cabellas, Bass Pro Shop, NAPA, DeWalt … Male military spouses would come out of the woodwork in droves to participate in that kind of event.”

If Etter is right, Pape and MachoSpouse might be on the right track. The website partnered with a gunsmith school, Sonoran Desert Institute School of Firearms Technology, which awarded a scholarship for one of their courses to a male military spouse. MachoSpouse added some other prizes and promoted the day on social media, but it has remained somewhat low key.

Whether they think they need the recognition or not, at least for some military husbands, it’s nice to be noticed.

“I still can’t believe how popular that is with my audience,” Pape said. “This is the first time I’ve seen guys openly excited about something like this.”

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