No faux pas gift giving

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Veronica Aceveda
  • 512th AW Public Affairs
When I departed my first duty station in the 1990s, I thought it was exceptionally nice of my co-workers to host a going away dinner in my honor and shower me with gifts.

Little did I know, at that time, of the Joint Ethics Regulation which governs gifts for Department of Defense employees.

I'm grateful no one found it in their heart to buy me that multi-colored faux fur jacket I had been raving about. For starters, there would've been pictures of me wearing that hideous piece of fashion, which I'm sure, would have found their way onto Facebook. Also, it would've been illegal.

According to JER, DoD 5500.7-R, a DoD employee may not accept a gift or gifts on a special, infrequent occasion like a going-away celebration, if the market value exceeds an accumulated amount of $300, if the employee knows or has reason to know that any member of the donating group is his or her subordinate.

And, while you could probably find that same jacket in a thrift store today for about $5; back then, it would have cost at least $350.

During that particular segment of my career, I was not a senior leader of any sort; however, I wasn't the lowest ranking either. Both officer and enlisted of varying grades were present at my event.

Per the JER, even if 350 people would have donated $1 each, it still would have been unauthorized to accept that jacket if just one of the contributing members was my subordinate.

Fortunately, I unintentionally remained ethical as my farewell dinner, turned roast, consisted mainly of gag gifts. I received a plastic telephone for they humorously bantered about my "gift of gab." Then, there was the pair of designer stockings I received, marking the day when a series of unfortunate events led to me wearing my service-dress skirt minus hosiery during an awards ceremony.

In all, I left that base with a ton of memories and several bags of gifts that did not surmount to $300.

That night, I laughed so hard I cried. I was grateful for everyone being there and every person's thoughtfulness. However, I honestly didn't put much thought into who actually contributed money towards the cost of the gifts, but I should have and will do so from now on.

Should I ever be so lucky to receive such blessings again upon retirement from my last duty station, I now understand how members who are higher-ranking than me can spend as much as they'd like on a gift. But, subordinate members who contribute have to ensure their gift or gifts don't surpass the maximum amount of $300.

I can fully foresee receiving a plain red flag as a funny gift as my co-workers claim my nostrils flair like a bull when I get a little hot under the collar; and, if history repeats itself, my colleagues will ignore the crazy jabber about me one day owning a pair of purple sheepskin boots.