In my 23 years as a military spouse, I have regularly seen men other than my husband. Often several times a day. Some men have been veritable strangers to me, while others I have come to know quite well. And, believe it or not, a few of them have been women.
Most of these relationships have been light and friendly, a few have been business only, but all of them have had a certain intimacy. It may have appeared to others that we were mere acquaintances, but make no mistake about it — these men have peered deeply into my psyche and revealed my secrets.
The men, and a few women, I am referring to are the military base gate guards.
It all happens quite accidentally. As my minivan inches forward in the line toward the base gate, I am unsuspecting. I chew my gum. I listen to the radio. I glance down at my commissary list. I casually pluck a flosser or tweezers from my console and use the flip-down mirror to groom myself. I don’t realize that the gate guard is about to peek into the intimate corners of my life.
“Hi! How’r you today?” I ask after stopping at the guard shack. I fumble for my ID, which is always jammed too far into the pocket of my wallet. “Darnit,” I mutter, licking my thumb in order to get a decent grip on the plastic.
“There you go!” I finally produce my ID, hoping he won’t scrutinize the black and white photo that was taken the day my hairdryer broke last year. Without a word, he accepts my ID, and after swiping it through his little hand-held machine, he stares at it and the machine’s display. Back and forth, back and forth, analyzing whatever has been revealed.
All at once, I feel vulnerable, exposed, guilty for something I haven’t done.
He looks directly at my face, too. I smile nervously, wondering, what is he thinking? Is he trying to match my double chin to the one in my ID picture?
He leans over a bit and inspects the interior of my minivan. His flashlight scans each row of seats, the floor mats, the dark spaces under the dash. His eyes pause a moment on Moby, our 2-year-old yellow Lab, panting and seated in the second row on a furry blanket.
I see the corner of his mouth rise a little, and I detect a reaction in his eyes. Is it a twinkle?
There have been several times over the years when the gate guard has ordered me to pull my van over so that he could conduct a random vehicle search. Without a doubt, random vehicle searches have taken our relationship to another level.
In these instances, I follow the gate guard’s orders to exit my van, and get ready for him to pat me down. But instead of frisking me, he directs me to stand aside and watch, while he searches every inch of my vehicle, looking under my hood and using mirrors to peek up my undercarriage.
Once, while stationed in Germany, the guard even had his drug detecting shepherd sniff the junk in my trunk.
On one hand, I am embarrassed when he shines his flashlight into every nook and cranny — I prefer it with the lights off — but at the same time, I desperately seek his approval.
“You’re good to go, Ma’am, have a nice day,” he has told me countless times after our little encounters. I smile and wish him well, until next time.
As I head for the commissary to buy turkey burgers and fiber supplements, I know that between us, there are no illusions, no commitments, no secrets. The gate guard has looked into the intimate details of my life, and he is fully satisfied.
All joking aside, our military gate guards provide an invaluable service to our military community. Standing watch rain or shine, no matter how monotonous or hazardous, they protect every military installation around the world. Thank you, military base gate guards, for your service and dedication to our safety and security.
Lisa Smith Molinari is an award-winning syndicated columnist, author, blogger and speaker. “The Meat & Potatoes of Life” appears weekly in civilian and military newspapers across the United States.