Research shows that there is a striking difference between the way the Army community treats officers and enlisted men under the United States military system. Officers are generally considered to be responsible married men whose wives are an integral part of military tradition and culture. On the other hand, the perception of enlisted men is that they are young, impulsive and maybe irresponsible. Their wives and families are generally not seen in Army gatherings and social events. It is hardly surprising then that it is mostly officers that identify strongly with many symbols of military life. For instance, the wearing of class rings which dates from 1835 and originated at the United States Military Academy. So, while officers agonise over whether to wear their military ring on the left or right hand, the attitude of many enlisted men might be to wonder what the fuss is about.
Harrell M.C. carried out a detailed study in 2000 titled ‘BRASS RANK AND GOLD RINGS: CLASS, RACE, GENDER, AND KINSHIP WITHIN THE ARMY COMMUNITY’. The author attempted to answer these four questions in his work which I recommend to military enthusiast: (1) What are the traditional gender-, class- and race-based roles in the military? (2) How do Army soldiers and their spouses respond to the demands of these roles? (3) How do the spouses of officers and enlisted personnel interact with one another and explain or challenge a system that treats them differently from one another? and (4) Does the Army support Army families?
Harrell M.C found that officers spouses are expected to act in a parental manner and participate in extensive volunteer and social activities within the military community whilst spouses of enlisted men are unseen and cast as immature adolescents encumbered with personal problems and negative behavior stereotypical of their lower class and African American identity. Hence, while an officer’s chest may swell with pride as he adorns his military class ring on parade day, the enlisted men are often in the shadows trying to come to terms with their exclusion from an institution they love and cherish so much.