The U.S. military is one of the few professions in the world that requires people who join it to not only work for their particular service branch, but to live by a certain set of standards; a code. It is a type of cultural immersion that is unique to the profession. A person isn’t just a part of the U.S. military for eight hours per day, they live it.
This type of complete, emotional, spiritual, personal and professional commitment often leads to military personnel having military pride. Military pride is basically the feeling a person has that arises from their service. Most veterans are very proud of their service and while some might not walk around with veteran hats or t-shirts, their military pride is still very present. They have service pride.
Why do military men and women have military pride? Military service is the exception, not the norm. About one percent or less of American citizens serve their country, so naturally that will be a source of military pride for veterans. In addition, history serves as a source of military pride as well, connecting current military personnel to the traditions, history and legacies of the past.
For example, many military units have long histories. Some, like the Florida National Guard, trace their heritage to the Spanish militias in the 1500s. Others trace their lineage to units in World War I or World War II. The lineage is a great source of military pride because it connects current military personnel to men and women who were also called to serve long ago. Time has not changed the commonality they share of wearing the uniform.
And there are plenty of symbols to keep personnel connected to their military heritage. For example, the Florida National Guard’s state patch is the shape of a Spanish fort that is located in St. Augustine, where the Florida National Guard is headquartered. Similarly, the Florida National Guard’s brigade combat team patch includes an old style Spanish helmet like Spain’s military wore when it came to North America. This connective tissue to the past is a great source of military pride for Guardsmen.
Similarly, another way military personnel might show military pride is through their unit mottos. The 101st Airborne Division, for example, has “Rendezvous with Destiny” as their motto, a saying that dates back to World War II and the unit’s activation. Once again, this connects the present to the past and helps the service member feel that he or she is part of history and not just a unit.
Most military members at least once per year show their military pride by attending festive unit events. These formal events are chock full of unit traditions, including grog bowls where select beverages are poured into a large bowl, each beverage represents a part of the unit’s history. For example, some units use red wines to represent when their units fought in France, while others might use whiskey to represent the unit’s formation in the western United States.
Along those lines, these unit celebrations sometimes include a cake marking the birthday of the unit or the service branch. Cakes are usually cut using a sword, a weapon from long ago, and the sword is normally held by the oldest and youngest service person in attendance during the cutting. The guest of honor usually gets the first slice of cake, but then the oldest unit member gets a slice and hands it down to the youngest member symbolizing the passage of knowledge. This is an enormous source of military pride as it includes recent living unit history.
On a more somber note, a sad source of military pride is reflected in the military’s memorial services. When a service member dies while in active service, a service will be held and the fallen soldier’s name will be called along with the names of his squad. Those in attendance will answer when their name is called and then the name of the fallen soldier is called, but there is no response. This reflects that the fallen member is forever a part of the unit.
Lastly, if the fallen service member is entitled to receive this honor, a horse drawn caisson will move the military member’s coffin to its final resting place. The caisson traditional started in early American battles when the dead were removed off the battlefield using ammo wagons pulled by horses. This tradition continued and it is a solemn source of military pride for the men and women who serve the United States.