DEAR ABBY: I read your answer to "Perplexed in Riverdale," concerning the woman whose husband was a retired naval officer who required his daughter to call his fellow officers by their rank. You agreed with the naval officer, stating that "a 12-year-old (especially the daughter of a naval officer) should have no trouble remembering the ranks of her father's fellow officers."
Your answer upset me no end. I am a retired veteran of 20 years of service, and the day I retired was the day I hung up my uniform and my rank. However, it seems as though some retired officers have a hard time separating themselves from the military, especially feeling like nobodies since they are no longer in power.
The 12-year-old girl is NOT IN THE MILITARY, and therefore should not be required to remember any military rank or call any military personnel by their rank. During my tenure in the military, I often had active-duty personnel ask me which rank came after so-and-so (e.g. What is the next rank after a full colonel?). These were personnel with up to three and four years of service. What would ever make you believe that any civilian, whether 12 or 50 years old, would have the need to know the level of military ranks?
My wife, for instance, served with me for a period of 16 years as a civilian. When asked about a person's rank, her answer was, "I don't know any rank in the military other than my husband's. He's a sergeant." I sincerely don't think she even knew what level I held as a sergeant. And that was fine with me, because I was in the military, not my wife or children. So neither my wife nor my four sons were ever required by me to refer to any of my friends by their rank.
In my view, you goofed big time. I would suggest you retract your answer to "Perplexed in Silverdale" and let this 12-year-old child be a civilian -- which she is! -- JOSEPH J. MURRAY, RET.
DEAR MR. MURRAY: I received numerous reprimands for that answer, much to my surprise. I had assumed that to a child raised in a military atmosphere, addressing adults by their rank would be nearly second nature -- and not too difficult to learn. However, many military parents disagreed with my presumption. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: As the wife of a retired Air Force officer, I do not agree that children should be taught to address active-duty military persons by their rank.
One of the main reasons we did not teach our children to address their friends' parents by rank was because we didn't want the children to feel that one person deserves more respect than another just because of rank. They were taught that adults were to be respected because of their age and wisdom, not because they had attained a higher rank than another person.
By the way, even though I spent 19 years as an Air Force officer's wife, I still cannot tell a Navy officer's rank by the insignia!
Although this time I strongly disagreed with your call, I generally agree with you, and I thank you for being there for us. -- EMILY L. MAHEU, NICEVILE, FLA.