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Obvious Signs That You’ve Served in the Military

Having one of the most powerful and respected military forces In the world, the US is home to millions of Americans who are either currently active duty soldiers or veterans. Though some veterans and current service members are fairly easy to identify, with their hats, bumper stickers, fatigues, dress uniforms, and other items that clearly display that they have served their country proudly, there are a number of other, slightly more subtle indicators that reveal specific patterns of behavior that nearly all soldiers hold in common.

In this facts-packed video, we’ll be taking a look at few tell-tale signs that indicate that someone has served in the military. But first things first, we want to extend our sincerest gratitude to all those that have courageously served their country. Without brave and selfless people like you within our ranks, we wouldn’t have the freedoms today that many sadly seem to take for granted.

Demeanor, Worldview, and Attitude

The vast majority of active duty service members and veterans are polite in their conversations and everyday interactions with their fellow community members. This might come as no surprise to some seeing as respect and politeness are a couple of core tenets that soldiers are instilled with in military basic training.

Service members are taught to treat their fellow compatriots and superiors with respect and an elevated level of decorum – but this training isn’t limited merely to interactions with military personnel. Soldiers are expected to afford the same level of respect and dignity to everyone that they interact with.

Next time that you talk to a soldier or veteran, listen for the use of words like ma’am and sir. If you notice somebody out in public that consistently uses this kind of language, especially in customer service settings, there is a fairly decent chance that they either have served or currently are serving in the military.

If you really pay attention when you’re out and about at places like the grocery store, gas station, library or restaurants, it’s fairly rare to come across regular civilians that use this sort of language with any sort of regularity.

Old Combat Boots

They say that ‘old habits die hard’. After a soldier has discovered the wonders and versatility of combat boots, it’s not unusual for them to continue wearing them even when they’re no longer on the base or battlefield.

Sleeping on the Floor

You won’t need a bed if you’ve ever completed basic training. During this initial bit of training, solders are prepared to sleep practically anywhere – be it on the rock-hard ground, in a hammock, or the dense grass.

Beds are a luxury that aren’t available everywhere when you’re serving in the military. So, it makes a lot of sense that servicemen and women would have to adjust to sleeping on the floor. Some get so used to it that beds begin to feel uncomfortable. If a buddy of yours occasionally likes to curl up on the rug even when a bed or couch is availble, there’s a very good chance that they’re a vet.

Brisk Walking

After someone undergoes military training, many aspects of that instruction will become second nature. In fact, some mannerisms and behaviors that folks pick up in the military almost become automatic bodily responses.

One very visible aspect is their swiftness of pace. A vet or active duty soldier will often walk at a much quicker pace than the civilians around them. They usually carry the same sense of urgency in all tasks in their lives regardless of how important they are.

Former or current servicemen and women will usually walk at a deliberately brisk pace, showing a great sense of duty, eagerness, and preparedness.


It pretty much goes without saying that vigilance is a crucial quality to cultivate when serving in the armed forces. It’s a skill that is highly encouraged and reinforced throughout all facets of the military. Without heightened awareness of a soldier’s surroundings, they are at far greater risk of being attacked or wounded in action. As such, soldiers who are trained to have a heightened perception of their surroundings and environment are readier to participate in a variety of high-stakes combat scenarios.

This aspect of training is so crucial that it never really goes away. Even after years of being a civilian, veterans often seem on edge in certain social situations. They might keep a tight watch over their surroundings regardless of how safe their settings might be.

If you come across a clean cut, stocky-built person who is constantly scanning their eyes around their environment at something like a sporting event or party, they very well may be acting on old habits that they acquired in their military training. If they aren’t in the military currently or never been, this is a pretty good indicator that someone would do well in that environment.

Power Stance

While veterans and service members are fairly easy to pick out in a crowd, officers are especially identifiable. An officer – either commissioned or non-commissioned – will usually exude a high level of confidence and leadership. These qualities are ingrained within an officer’s character either through their training or by birth.

Additionally, officers typically have a broad range of ways, both conscious and unconscious, in which they communicate their positions of authority. They tend to conduct their body language in an authoritative, confident, and assertive manner whether they intend to or not. One of the most obvious ways that they might do this is in what is known as a ‘power stance’, wherein they may stand erect with their thumbs between their belt.

Military Jargon

If you’re familiar with the military or merely have seen a few war films before, then you already know that there is an entire vocabulary and set of jargon that is used in communication. You might be familiar with common responses such as ‘roger’ or ‘negative’, but there are several other words and phrases you can be on the lookout for to identify someone that either is currently serving in the military or has in the past.

Alphabetic codes are often used in the military due to the lack of auditory clarity in radio communications. The letters of the Greek alpahabet, such as Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta, are used to refer to words that begin with the corresponding letters of the English alphabet. If you ever hear anyone using this kind of language to refer to something that most other folks would simply refer to by their given names, there is a high likelihood that they have spent some time in the armed forces.

Hair Style

All branches of the military require their members to abide by a very strict and specific set of personal grooming standards – especially in regards to one’s hair. For example, on the top, hair can be no longer than three inches long. As far as styling goes, there are a few distinct and highly recognizable military haircuts that conform to the rigid set of standards laid out by military regulations.

The most identifiable military haircut is high and neat. The individual’s sides are usually shaved, and the hair on top of their head is closely cropped. Generally speaking, the vast majority of military haircuts are substantially shorter on the sides than up on top. It’s pretty rare to see these haircuts on anyone who isn’t at least somewhat associated with the military.


It’s commonly known that vets and active-duty service members love wearing sunglasses. It’s fairly common to see service men and women wearing sunglasses at all times, even when they’re out and about as civilians. A solider will still rock their sunglasses even in the middle of a thunderstorm when there is next to no sunlight breaching through the cloud cover.

While a lot of people wear sunglasses – especially those who work outdoors – if someone you meet is wearing sunglasses while also exhibiting any of the other behaviors that we’ve covered so far, it’s a fairly safe bet to assume that they’ve either served in the past or are currently serving in the military.

Additionally, the sunglasses of choice for vets or active-duty soldiers are typically Oakleys or similar wrap-around style sunglasses because they stay on easily and are pretty utilitarian in their construction.

Style Of Dress

We’ve already discussed how many active-duty and former service members retain a fondness for combat boots, but there are several other articles of clothing that they might wear in their civilian lives that can inform others about their time in service to their country.

One of these items is cargo shorts. Like many other items worn and utilized by soldiers, cargo shorts are very functional. They might not be very stylish, but they are certainly quite utilitarian and practical. With many pockets capable of carrying equipment and personal items, cargo shorts are naturally quite appealing to soldiers who are already used to carrying around large quantities of stuff throughout the day. In fact, the majority of cargo pants have about the same pocket configurations as authentic military BDU pants. They are also often available in camo or olive green.

While this might not be the best indicator, as many people that have never served before also like wearing cargo pants, when seen in combination with the other indicators we’ve been addressing, a preference for this clothing item can be a pretty good sign that someone served in the military.

Quick Eaters

In the military, soldiers are trained and expected to be prepared for just about anything at anytime. They are expected to drop whatever it is they are doing at a moment’s notice to jump headlong into action. With the threat of imminent danger always present out on the front lines, mundane or trivial tasks such as eating or drinking must be done with a sense of haste and urgency.

If you’ve ever tried an MRE before, then you already know that they’re not exactly known for being gourmet. Taste and aesthetics aren’t exactly priorities when designing these kind of quick-to-consume ready-to-eat meals. To a soldier, food is just fuel to keep their bodies in motion.

As such, soldiers are taught to eat fast just in case their meal is suddenly interrupted by the call of duty. Veterans often retain this habit due to compulsion and repetition. After all, we really all are just creatures of habit. If you see someone with a high and tight haircut quickly scarfing down their lunch, they very well could have served their country in the past or are currently doing so.

Once again, there is no one thing that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that a civilian has served or is currently serving in the military. And as you may be aware, there will always be a few bad apples out there that like to convince others that they’re vets when they’re really not. “Stolen Valor” aside, however, the points that we just covered are usually pretty good indicators that someone has some military experience.

Can you think of any other indicators that someone has or is serving in the military, and do you think that serving in the military makes someone better equipped to handle other areas of life? Let us know in the comments.

And once again, to all of you vets and active duty service members out there, thank you for your service!

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