Survive Your First Military Parade…Without Looking Like a Fool!

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Sit. Stand. Sit again. Stand. Now sit – oops… you’re the only one sitting down. How embarrassing. A military parade can be, for outsiders, much like a Catholic Church service; so steeped in tradition and acts of reverence and respect that if you’ve never attended one before it can be easy to get confused and do the wrong action.

Feeling a little anxious about attending your very first parade for the CF? Nerves on edge because it’s the first time you’ll be representing your soldier in an official setting and you don’t want to embarrass them? When recruits join the Canadian Forces they are put through a 14 week crash course on everything military including etiquette for parades and official events. Unfortunately the spouses and families are not.

When I attended my husband’s BMQ Graduation Parade it was the first official CF event I had ever been to. To add to my nerves about making a complete fool of myself in front of my husband and his friends was the fact that I was sitting front row center, amongst a bevy of senior CF officers, one of whom happens to be my in-law.

Don’t get me wrong – it was one of the best experiences of my life! Sitting so close to the troops as they did their march-past, getting to see my husband up close in his DEU’s. But I had been lectured for days by my darling husband about how whatever I did while sitting next to my officer-in-law would reflect on him and if I made a faux pas it would embarrass him in front of his peers. Luckily my fears were unfounded because he giggled at something during the ceremony, along with all the other senior officers I might add.

For all of you who will be attending your very first CF parade I’ve learned a few things that should help guide you through the experience and keep you from looking like fish out of water.

First, wear comfortable shoes. There is more than a little standing involved for the attendees at a CF parade and you don’t want to be faltering because you’re feet hurt. While we’re on the subject of attire, don’t wear ripped jeans and a tube top. There is no hard, fast dress code for CF parades but wear something respectable; jeans are fine just not ones with holes so big you could fit your arm through them. Similarly, if you’re adjusting your top every five seconds to prevent the next nipple-gate you should probably choose a different top.

The next thing is knowing when to sit and stand. If you get terribly confused or you’re overwhelmed and forget which are the standing parts find a soldier in the crowd and follow their lead. The times during a CF parade when you need to stand are as follows: when the flag is marched both on and off, when the national anthem plays, during the march-past, during the prayer and on the arrival and departure of the inspecting officer.

A few more things to keep in mind during parades. Absolutely no cell phones! This isn’t like the movies where you can sneak a quick text in without being rude (even though that’s still pretty rude). During a parade the soldiers are celebrating something, a change of command, a promotion, and a graduation, so show them the respect they deserve.

Also, if you have little ones try and impart on them the atmosphere of the parade. No one will grumble if a baby babbles or cries for a brief moment, but generally shouting children who refuse to quiet for the duration of the parade will upset more than a few people.

So, now that you’ve made it through the parade without sitting while you should be standing or answering a text from your friend, there are just a few more pointers that you need to keep your composure and look like you fit in.

Remember that there is a strict rule against kissing, hugging and generally being physically intimate that applies whenever a soldier is in uniform. This may seem harsh but it’s better to be prepared for it – trust me, you don’t want to be the person who runs up to their soldier for a hug and gets pushed away. This is just one of those things that Canadian military spouses have to deal with, even though we will never, ever learn to like it. Just remember, it’s nothing personal!

One more thing to keep in mind, when meeting your soldier’s superiors is be respectful. Don’t say things like, “hey dude! I’ve heard you’re a real hard-ass” or, “oh… I’ve heard about you.” They won’t say anything about it to your face but you’d better believe if you disrespect them your soldier will pay for it in punishment PT later on.

Congratulations! You’ve now made it through your first parade successfully and have taken your first step to becoming a full-fledged member of the CF community! Now, that wasn’t so bad was it?

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