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Obvious signs you are or were in the military


The floor is just as comfortable as a bed

During training and on deployment, there are many times when a soldier will have to grab a few minutes of sleep on the nearest flat surface. That surface is usually a floor and has become just as comfortable as a bed, and our backpack has become just as comfortable as a pillow. It’s all about what you can do to be comfortable when you’re out in the field. In addition to falling asleep practically anywhere, soldiers have the ability to wake up from a deep sleep or catnap and be completely on their feet and aware within minutes.

Ironing is one of your top skills

Military personnel excel at many things, but ironing is one of their most impressive skills. They know how to iron every piece of clothing in their closet, especially that white T-shirt that needs that extra crease on the sleeve. There is no way you will find a military man or woman wearing a crumpled up or wrinkled uniform, it is just not part of the military way. Obviously, this is with respect to the significant others of the military personnel in question.

You walk a certain way

The walk of a soldier is a dead giveaway of their past training. A soldier walks with a sense of control and purpose, never wandering and always on the move. An added characteristic of a soldier’s walk is the speed of it. A current or former military person walks much faster than the average civilian. So between the way you walk and how fast you walk, those around you know you are only missing your uniform to solidify the fact that you’re a soldier.

You use military time all the time

Military time is used in many countries around the world, but not so much in the United States – unless you are in the military. 08:00 hours is 8:00 AM, while 16:00 is 4:00 PM. The military uses this format so as to make sure there is no confusion between AM and PM hours. If you were or are in the military, you use military time at home too. Bedtime is set for 20:00 (or twenty hundred hours) while breakfast promptly at 09:00 (or zero nine hundred hours).

The hair

There is the designated Marine buzz cut, or the all around shred. When you are in the military you don’t have a choice as to your hair cut, everyone has the same one (the aforementioned buzz cut). When you are no longer in the military you can do whatever you want but you most likely went for some similar form of the military do. It’a not simple to break away from the years you spent doing something a certain way.

Scanning a crowd is your specialty

One of the first things you learn to do is understand your surrounding and detect any anomalies. When a soldier is at a concert or at a parent teach conference, they are still automatically going through the crowd of people to make sure everything is on the up and up. They are also the ones to catch inappropriate or troubling behavior and will absolutely do something about it fi they are the one to catch the person.

You stand ‘at ease’ when relaxing

There are two main drill commands – ‘attention’ (pronounced ‘ten-hut’) and ‘at ease’. Most military personnel don’t realize they are doing it but when they are in the civilian world they stand ‘at ease’ all the time. It really is their way of standing in a relaxed way after so many months (or years) of being told to stand that way. It actually HAS become the easy way to stand for them.

It’s Ma’am and Sir, nothing else

Respect is one of the most important elements within the military. As such, being polite is a given. A soldier, past and present, will always refer to a man or woman as Sir or Ma’am as a way of showing their respect for them. It doesn’t matter if the person is the garbage man, the checkout lady in the grocery store or the newspaper delivery guy – everyone gets the highest level of respect.

You are a super fast eater

There are cultures where eating is a process that takes hours, for a soldier that is the opposite of reality. Soldiers eat very fast in order to make sure they return to their post as fast as they can and in the field they eat fast as a survival mechanism. Even when they are no longer on active duty they eat their dinner at record time, it’s hard to slow down when you’ve been chowing down your meals for years.

Military jargon is used regularly

If you hear an individual use words like ‘negative’, ‘roger that’, or ‘copy that’, you are in the presence of a soldier. These words, known as military jargon, are not used by anyone other than military personnel, it isn’t part of the way civilians speak to one another. Now when a soldier uses military jargon on a civilian, he needs to be prepared to explain to them what he means.

Expletives come naturally for you

Part of being in the military means you are going to hear a lot of curse words and you will inevitably start using them yourself. Civilians don’t usually know how much swearing goes on within military bases and deployment, but it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, should it? Curse words are in all of our vocabularies, but they let loose those words much more often, it seems.

You are polished from head to toe

Very much like the whole ironing elements of a solider’s appearance, being polished from head to toe is very important. A kept appearance is vital for a soldier. Now, one of the most important parts of a soldier’s wardrobe? Their shoes, of course. A soldier shines his shoes to tip top condition before putting them on. When they are in civilian life, they are just as picky and polished with their civilian attire as well.

Your fridge is as decorated as you

Drawings from children, photos sent over, magnets, rewards or any other militaresque memorabilia, somehow all find their way to the soldier’s refrigerator. For all of us, our fridge is littered with important reminders and photos of our loved ones (well, usually anyway) and for a soldier, it is just that plus added memorabilia from their time touring. This photo is a classic example of a military style fridge.

Saluting is your form of ‘hi’!

A soldier is taught to salute as one of the first things in training. It becomes a part of his or her daily routine and basically replaces ‘hi’! When a soldier is back at home, it doesn’t mean they stop saluting. Most of them find themselves saluting as an automatic reaction to a greeting. Other people start returning the favor as a way for them to seem cool.

Kitchen isn’t in your vocabulary, it’s ‘The Mess’

A kitchen is not called a kitchen on a military base. A kitchen is called ‘the mess’. When a soldier gets home from wherever he was based, he still calls the kitchen ‘the mess’. It’s hard to stop calling something one way because it isn’t the regular way for others to call it. The little names of things within the military are just one way soldiers take home another piece of the base with them.

Call of Duty is peanuts in comparison to real battle

While Call of Duty is a great video game that both soldiers and civilians like soldiers think the game is much easier than the reality of battle. Obviously. Not only is the game, well, a game, but in reality, there are many more options to do with a weapon and the game is a piece of cake for the soldiers who are trained in battle.

Black paint or ‘Boot-Topping’?

Boot paint and boot-topping is pretty much the same thing for military personnel. Boot-topping is actually the black coating that is lathered between the deck and the waterline. The consistency is liquidy and thick and is made out of lime or sulfur. Civilians wouldn’t notice the difference between black paint and boot-topping, that would take an expert military eye to detect.

Any form of line you’re in, you’re quiet

There is something about lines that keeps a soldier silent. On base, they are in lines because they are being spoken to or preparing for something, either way, it is a sign of discipline and respect. In the civilian world, when a soldier is standing in line to purchase his groceries or in line for the ATM, he is always silent, it’s part of the training.

You check your car like a plane before beginning to drive

On base, a soldier does a preflight check for an aircraft. At home, a soldier does a pre-car-ride check. It is all about safety precautions and making sure everyone is accounted for and the car is ready to go just as much as a plane would be. All of these are all about the habits soldiers get on base that they use during their post-military life. It’s extraordinary.

Your home has a chore list

It’s well known that life in the military is very schedule-based and strict. As such, soldiers get used to the super efficient way of doing things. The use of lists is very common within military ranks. When a soldier comes home he usually implements his list preparing skills into chore lists for his household. Every soldier runs a tight ship at home, thanks to the ways of the military.

You aren’t the biggest fan of fireworks

This item speaks more to those soldiers who have been deployed abroad. Fireworks tend to set off an uneasy feeling in soldiers. It may have them remember an event or two from their time overseas that they would have preferred not to think about. Fireworks and their crackle and burst sounds are not pleasant for most people but for those used to hearing combustion of some form, it’s much harder.

Power stance can be spotted easily

A power stance is one where an individual has their thumbs through their belt of their arms crossed in a seemingly powerful way. The power stance is used if you are a military officer or a general, so basically someone in a position of power. When that person comes home he doesn’t stop standing in the power stance just because he is home, it’s an unnoticed stance that just happens.

Your military ‘squad’ is everything

For individuals in the military, your unit is your family and your squad is the most important thing out there in the line of duty. You have each other’s backs and need one another to get the job done. When military squads come home, it is very obvious who they are by the way they walk and behave around one another. They know that being together increases their chance of survival while deployed and understanding when they return home.

You speak in acronyms

Military personnel speak in acronyms much of the time. For non-military personnel, it can get very confusing and annoying when they don’t understand what their military other is saying, but sometimes it’s on purpose. Acronyms such as WAG, BOHICA, and SNAFU are used often. Soldiers often need to explain what the words mean as any non-military individual would be totally lost.

You honk your car horn twice

You know you are or were in the military if you honk your horn twice before backing up your vehicle. A soldier does that to make sure there isn’t anyone behind his or her car when they are backing up. Another thing about honking is that when a soldier hears honking he or she will automatically look around their perimeter for the nearest place of safety.

You automatically rise when you see the American flag

Another aspect of respect within the military is standing when you are in the presence of an American flag. It is something that has been ingrained in soldiers from the beginning, as the United States flag is the physical embodiment of the American nation. In addition to standing, soldiers may salute the flag if they wish, whether they are current or past military personnel.

You prefer to have your back to a wall

When your back is against a wall there is one less angle you have to worry about when you’re sitting somewhere with your family. Military personnel take heed to sit in a place with their back to the wall so as to have a good view of the space he or she is in and survey it when they wish to, in addition to having their own back safe so as to make sure they are there to protect their own family. It is always about defense.

Hospital corners are vital

This is probably one of the oldest known discipline traits within the military – hospital corners. Not only does it make the bed look neat and tidy, a very important aspect to the military lifestyle, but it also means that everything always looks the same. So whether the soldier is on the base or at home, hospital corners are essential for them to feel ‘at home’ at home.

War movies frustrate you

Any professional who sees a film about their own line of work will have a thing or two to say about the facts in the film. The same goes for any soldier who sees a film where the military is portrayed. Films like Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbor had a backlash from soldiers saying how far from reality the film was. Hey, it is Hollywood after all.

Bathroom is the time to whistle

This one is a strange one but true. Soldier whistle when they go to the bathroom. Where this started we have no idea but its as true today as it was years ago. You know a soldier is in the next stall when you hear him whistling, he isn’t just doing it for himself he is doing it for anyone in the bathroom at that moment.

You use knife hands and you barely notice

Knife hands are when you gesture with your hand in a tight format where your fingers are together side by side and your hand is open entirely (see photo for details). If you ask a soldier how to get somewhere, they will undoubtedly use knife hands to explain the various directions to you. While knife hands are truly military, a soldier does it purely out of habit when not on base.

Waking up at 7:00 AM is considered late

A soldier gets used to getting up well before 7:00 AM when he is in basic training. By the time a soldier is years into his or her service they are not only up before 7:00 AM with no problem, they are thankful for the time they have to get everything that needs to be done checked off in a proper and timely manner. If a soldier was to sleep past 7:00, it would be constituted as sleeping in!

Popping smoke means it’s time to leave

Another military jargon scenario is when a soldier says ‘popping smoke’. Popping smoke means he is leaving. While we civilians say something along the lines of ghosting or disappearing, soldiers have their own way of stating things so that it is uniquely military and not basic. We think of a mist of smoke that a magician sends out when they want to disappear in front of a crowd and not be seen.

Tobasco is key to eating military style

Military meals are not the top of the line, honestly. They are dry and sometimes come in packets that are just heated up or dried so they can be eaten anytime anywhere. What do soldiers put on every single meal? Tobasco! They swear by the condiment to help make the food more tolerable. They need to add sriracha to their repertoire.

You get misty-eyed when you hear the national anthem

There is a great deal of pride for soldiers who serve in the American military, as there should be. It is then not very surprising that soldiers tend to get misty-eyed when hearing The Star Spangled Banner. Soldiers are very protective of the American way of life and the constitution that built the nation, they stand during the anthem and salute as well. To be honest, we all get kind of choked up when hearing the anthem.

Always early, never late

Being fashionably late is absolutely NOT a thing any military individual does. A Soldier is always 15 minutes early to everything, the 15 minutes late bit will not fly with any military organization or individual. Arriving 15 minutes earlier is not only respectful and timely, it also means you may get to surprise someone special when you return from deployment.

Explanations are called briefings

Everything is much more serious when it comes from a soldier. There is no such thing as an explanation, but rather a briefing. Explaining is something that isn’t in the military dictionary, briefing is much more accurate a word as soldiers are not taught to babble but to say what needs to be said and no more or less. It is a much more controlled and less emotional way of looking at a conversation.

Your showers are no more than 3 minutes long

This one was probably easier for the male soldiers than it was for the female ones. Showering in the military is a quick process, one that is usually done in under 3 minutes. Time is precious and showers are for necessity not luxury. When soldiers return to their civilian lives, they still stick to the fast shower as a matter of habit and efficiency.

The phonetic alphabet is used for business and pleasure

When military buddies don’t want someone to understand what they are saying to one another, they will use the phonetic alphabet to spell out words for them to understand. A cute military technique that brings the soldier back to the days when he or she was on base and had no civilians around. In case you were wondering, we are full of Juliet Oscar Yankee!

You’re either a soldier or you’re not

For a soldier, there are two kinds of people in the world – military personnel and civilians. Soldiers can tell who is one of them and who has never stepped their foot into a base. The soldier knows to look at ones walk, stand, wear their shirt and cut their hair. Soldiers have a certain ‘us vs. them’ mentality, which is totally cool by us civilians since they are out there protecting us!

Your gun is your bestie

A soldier knows that wherever he is, so is his gun. So when he or she is no longer in the military on active duty or is home on leave, they almost feel phantom limb syndrome when their gun isn’t with them. Still, they will check the room for their gun so as not to forget it, only to remember that they don’t have their firearm with them anymore.

Cadence is the ultimate workout song

Not sure you knew this but Cadence is the traditional military song. The song is full of energy and is an epic soundtrack for a good run or workout. Soldiers listen to the song on base and off and share it with their non-military friends and family. The song gives determination and motivation to anyone who hears it. Now we want to go give it a listen.