20 Telltale Signs You’ve Served Time In The Military

Some ex-military personnel will often downplay their service, perhaps preferring not to draw attention to it. Even so, there may still be ways to tell whether someone is a veteran – whether it’s through their incredible ironing skills or their overuse of a certain condiment. These 20 tell-tale signs, for example, all definitely reveal that you’ve spent time in the armed forces.

20. Any floor can be a bed

Soldiers don’t always have the luxury of a mattress to crash on. Indeed, whether they’re on a tour of duty or just training, service personnel often have to rest wherever they happen to be. So, if you notice someone making a hard floor look like the world’s softest bed, you’ll know who they used to be.

19. You’re an ironing master

Are your clothes only creased exactly where they need to be? Well, you may just have served in the military. After all, army personnel are well known for their attention to detail when it comes to ironing, and exquisite presentation is also part and parcel of military life.

ADVERTISEMENT

18. You have a very distinctive walk

A person’s gait can tell you a lot about them. For instance, if they walk swiftly and with purpose and prefer not to saunter around aimlessly, then chances are they have a military background. After all, there’s no room for slackers among army personnel; you have to keep up.

17. You only ever use military time

ADVERTISEMENT

Ask any civilian what time it is, and they’ll probably tell you something like “11:00 a.m.” However, a veteran may respond by saying, “Eleven hundred hours.” And while civilians in other countries may themselves have adopted the concept of military time, it’s typically only current or former servicepeople who use it stateside – and giving the time in that format is a hard habit to break.

16. Relaxing means standing “at ease”

After so many years of being told to stand “at ease,” it’s no wonder soldiers naturally do so long after they leave military service. But it’s not generally because they don’t know how to unwind. In fact, for them, standing at ease is genuinely their way of relaxing.

ADVERTISEMENT

15. You’ll always refer to someone as “Sir” or “Ma’am”

ADVERTISEMENT

Whether you’re a waiter, delivery boy or mechanic, you can likely expect to be addressed as “Sir” or “Ma’am” by ex-army personnel. After all, this particular habit is ingrained in soldiers from the top ranks to the bottom; it’s perhaps no surprise, then, that servicepeople keep up the practice even after they return to civilian life.

14. You’re always the first to finish eating

In the military, there’s just no time for slow eaters. After all, everything needs to happen as quickly as possible – and that includes getting back to your post after lunch. A telltale sign that someone’s spent time in the military, then, is that they look like they’re going for a world record in speed eating after they have sat down for a meal.

ADVERTISEMENT

13. You use military jargon all the time

ADVERTISEMENT

How many times have you heard regular folks use terms like “Copy that” or “Negative” in everyday life? Not a lot, we’d wager. That’s because they’re generally only used by people serving in the military. And veterans may not drop the jargon when they return from service, either.

12. You swear way more often than others

Throughout their military service, soldiers are usually exposed to more curse words than they probably ever knew existed. So it’s only natural that those expressions seep into their own everyday language. And that means veterans may be far more prone to expressively using those expletives in civilian life than the rest of us.

ADVERTISEMENT

11. You salute to say hello

ADVERTISEMENT

One of the very basic things a soldier learns is the salute as a form of greeting, and that action in turn quickly becomes ingrained into their daily life. Back home, then, if someone says “Hello” to a veteran, muscle memory may just prompt them to salute in return.

10. You don’t enjoy war movies

It’s not that many movies depicting conflict aren’t, technically speaking, any good. It’s just that such films are often totally removed from reality – whether we’re talking about Black Hawk Down or Pearl Harbor. The same can really be said of any profession that Hollywood chooses to depict, though, so it’s just something you have to live with.

ADVERTISEMENT

9. There’s no such thing as an explanation

ADVERTISEMENT

Another classic example of military vocabulary working its way into regular life is the “briefing.” If you’re around an ex-service member, then, you’ll notice that “explanation” isn’t a word they utter very often. And as it suggests, a briefing is much more to the point – an important trait for any wartime situation – than other typical retellings of events.

8. You shower very quickly

Generally, showers in the military last no longer than three minutes – mostly because of how precious time is while out in the field. It’s perhaps unsurprising to hear, then, that veterans may still manage to keep their ablutions brief when they return from service.

ADVERTISEMENT

7. You use the phonetic alphabet regularly

ADVERTISEMENT

Occasionally, an ex-soldier will use the phonetic alphabet out of habit when spelling out a word. But every now and then, they may also actively choose to use it to communicate with a fellow veteran around civilians. Either way, it’s a telltale sign of someone who’s served time in the Alpha Romeo Mike Yankee.

6. The buzzcut is your hairstyle of choice

When you’re in the military, there’s just one choice of hairstyle, and it’s the buzz cut. That’s it. It’s ironic, then, that when many soldiers return home, they actively choose to maintain that very same hairstyle. But that’s what they’re used to, and doing things differently after so long isn’t easy.

ADVERTISEMENT

5. You call any kitchen “the mess”

ADVERTISEMENT

Coming home from active duty doesn’t necessarily mean leaving behind an entire lifestyle. In fact, most of it is coming with you – including the terminology. And another example of leftover linguistics is “the mess” – the military term for the kitchen and dining area.

4. You use “knife hands” out of habit

“Knife hands” doesn’t mean you’re carrying around a bunch of knives; instead, it’s the name of a gesture. And that particular movement is made with a flat palm and by pointing with all four fingers and your thumb locked side by side. It’s a classic military signal – and one that former soldiers may find difficult to ditch.

ADVERTISEMENT

3. You stand silent in lines

ADVERTISEMENT

Standing in line is a key part of military life; it shows respect and encourages discipline. And, of course, a major part of that endeavor is remaining completely silent. That’s not a habit soldiers can break too easily, either. So, you’ll probably notice veterans standing silently in lines in all walks of life – even at the grocery store.

2. All your meals include Tabasco sauce

Let’s face it: dining in the military isn’t exactly a Michelin-star experience. In fact, the majority of food is dried so that it can be eaten with virtually no preparation. In order to make meals more palatable, then, many army personnel use liberal amounts of Tabasco sauce. Anything for a little flavor…

ADVERTISEMENT

1. Your shoes are a point of pride

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s not just perfectly ironed clothes that form a core part of a soldier’s uniform – their boots also need to look spic and span. This, of course, means polishing footwear regularly. And when servicepeople return to normal life, that attention to detail surrounding their appearance doesn’t suddenly go away.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT