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Scene, Sunday, May 1, 2010

It’s the priceless item that validates our identity as military dependents; a passport to all things military, allowing military spouses to bloom where we’re planted all over the world: The military identification card.

Without it, we are persona non grata at any U.S. installation. With it, the world of commissary and exchange privileges, cheap movies, Crystal bingo, bowling and medical care (if you can get an appointment) are open to us.

I’ve had a military ID for most of my life, first as a daughter and now as a wife.

I still have the last ID card from my dependent child days. Fret not, security-minded individuals; the card is invalidated by a strategically punched hole — very OPSEC. Plus, it looks less authentic than what any 10-year-old could generate via computer today. It wouldn’t pass for a current high-tech ID any more than a membership card for the Cap’n Crunch Club, ca. 1974, free in specially-marked boxes.

My old card was revoked when I graduated from college. It was a sad day — the revoking, not the graduating.

When I got married, it seemed unjust that my new husband, then a reservist, could have an ID card, while I — with 21 years of seniority in military life — did not qualify. I could only shop on base when he was with me to make the purchases and show his ID card. Talk about dependent.

A few years later, my husband went on active duty. The military world welcomed me back with open arms — and a new ID card — as a true "dependent." I’ve had 21 years’ worth of IDs since then.

When I was a kid, the worst part of getting an ID was the uncertainty. ID card pictures are notoriously unflattering, but in the days before digital photography, they were unpredictable. You got one shot, no previews, no choices, no retakes, and then you were in suspense during the weeks it took to process.

For several years, my mom’s ID card showed her with her tongue sticking out. The clerk snapped the picture while Mom — preparing for the photo — was moistening her lips. Mom used to joke about sticking out her tongue at commissary cashiers so they would recognize her at the checkout. She was glad when that one expired.

Now that I’m an adult, the worst part of renewing an ID card is facing tough questions like: "How much do you really weigh?" and "What color is your hair?"

I had to get a new ID card the other day. The people behind the counter were friendly and helpful, but nosy.

"Your information says you’re blonde," said the cute 30-something clerk, looking at her computer. "Do you want to change that, or are you planning to color your hair again?"

"No, this is my natural color. I won’t be changing it," I said, slightly confused.

She looked puzzled too, and then I realized her implication was that my natural color, perhaps more silver than gold these days, did not fit her idea of blonde.

She had already asked my weight, and I answered truthfully. So I thought she was pressing her luck a bit.

Noting her golden locks and brown roots, I considered telling her that I was more blonde than she was, but my better nature prevailed. Instead, I laughed and said, "Let me call it blonde for a little while longer."

She laughed too and humored me. Wow, I should have said 115 pounds. Maybe she would have let me get by with that, too.

Terri Barnes is a military wife living Germany. Contact her at spousecalls@stripes.com or on the Spouse Calls blog at http://blogs.stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls.

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