The Depot

Lost Military Dog Tags: 5 Inspiring Stories of Dog Tags Returned Home

Old rusted WWII dog tags

Considering that the United States has thousands of military members still accounted for, it should come as no surprise that there are thousands of lost dog tags. Lost dog tags have been found overseas and domestically. And these lost dog tags somehow stir in those that find them an energy that drives them to find the owners or their next of kin. While we can’t explain why people choose to hunt down the homes of these lost dog tags, we can share five great stories of how lost dog tags found their way back where they belong.

World War II
At a Florida flea market, a man came across a set of lost dog tags. The gentleman, a veteran, was angry that someone would be selling the dog tags. The vet tried, unsuccessfully, to have the vendor give him the lost dog tags, so he purchased them and thus began his attempt to home the lost dog tags.

The veteran turned to a non-profit that helps connect people who find dog tags with owners of lost dog tags. The veteran learned that the lost dog tags belonged to Army WWII Veteran, George Kroeger, who was originally from Ohio, but after the war Kroeger and his family moved to Florida.

Sadly, Kroeger passed away in 1986 and his wife and a son both died in 2005. There was no way to determine how his dog tag ended up in a flea market, but some guess that in the shuffle of estates the lost dog tags ended up in the hands of a vendor.

Luckily, the folks at the non-profit found a surviving son of Kroeger and he was presented his father’s dog tags.

A young boy in Missouri crawled underneath the wrap-around porch of his friend’s house where the two would go and hide. It was under that porch in Cassville, Missouri that the boy would find a lost dog tag that belonged to a Korean War draftee.

The boy grew into a man and kept the lost dog tag for years and as an adult he eventually figured out that the dog tags that he had were likely valuable to someone else. Like others, he reached out to a non-profit for help. 

They researched and discovered that the lost dog tags belonged to Billy Ray Fogg who was drafted into the Army in 1952. Sadly, Fogg was deceased, having died in 1989, but his wife survived and she was reunited with her husband’s dog tags.  

The dog tags of U.S. Army soldier Jackie Dale Walker from Oklahoma made their way home in 2012 after spending decades in the jungle in Southeast Asia. The lost dog tags belonging to Walker, who left behind a mother, father, sisters and brothers when he died in Vietnam in 1968, were returned to his family.

The lost dog tags were presented to his family 44 years after his death. This was made possible because a Wall Street trader was touring the Ho Chi Minh trail in 1998 and he came upon a Vietnamese man who had collected dog tags he had found over the years. He had more than 100 of them and the trader purchased them for $1 each.

Over the years, many more were returned by the trader, but eventually his efforts turned into an organized effort to help return the lost dog tags to their rightful owners.

Cold War
In 2021, a wildland firefighter in Arizona found a set of lost dog tags wrapped around a rear-view mirror, on I-17 just outside of Phoenix. Interestingly, 22 years earlier, a Marine Corps veteran was involved in car accident at that same site.

The Marine’s vehicle went off the road and flipped several times causing the veteran to suffer internal injuries and multiple fractures. A passenger in his car died from injuries sustained in the crash.

The rear-view mirror from the Marine vet’s car was broken off and thrown from the vehicle where they were found, more than 20 years later by the firefighter.

In 2021, the firefighter returned the lost dog tags to the Marine veteran. It turns out the two live close to each other.

Global War on Terror
An employee at an Ohio-based company found a set of lost dog tags in their work space and with some help they tracked down the retired Army National Guard officer who was the rightful owner.

The gentleman served in Iraq as a public affairs officer in 2004 and the tags have since been reunited with him.

If you have come across a set of lost dog tags, please consider reaching out to a veteran service organization. They might be able to direct you to an organization that helps home lost dog tags with their rightful owners or their families.

Military Dog Tags: A Brief History and Overview

Civil war era coin used as dog tag

The American military, like American culture, has plenty of tall tales, myths and legends. Americans, especially American soldiers, can spin a yarn like nobody else. It makes the military culture, and the people in it, more colorful and robust.

So, it should come as no surprise that dog tags have a bit of mystery swirling around them in some mythical orbit. Much of it is untrue, like the reason why dog tags used to be notched, but to help remove some of the misinformation out there about dog tags, maybe it is best to cover a bit of military dog tags history.

According to the Army, the term "dog tag" was first coined by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst in 1936 when Hearst heard of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's plan to issue cards for personal identification to help manage the newly formed Social Security Administration. Hearst tagged them, no pun intended, "dog tags."

Then of course there is the military dog tags history that military personnel know. Many believe that the term dog tag was a nickname that World War II military draftees called them because the draftees joked that they were treated like dogs. Another military rumor in military dog tags history is that they looked like tags on a dog’s collar. But while the term “dog tag” seems to have caught on around World War II, the concept of identifying soldiers originated long before World War II.

During the Civil War, some battles had casualties numbering in the thousands and soldiers became afraid that they would not be identified if they were killed in action. They wanted to be properly identified and buried in a marked grave if they died, so naturally, military ingenuity kicked in and soldiers devised ways to be identified if they were killed.

Some soldiers stitched their names into their uniforms while others pinned pieces of paper to themselves. Many more used coins or other bits of metals and some men carved their names into chunks of wood strung around their necks. Soldiers with financial resources purchased engraved metals tags from vendors who followed the armies during the war.

When the Civil War ended, more than 40 percent of the Union Army’s dead were unidentified, according to the U.S. Defense Department. The soldiers’ concerns were validated and the use of dog tags on the battlefield took root in the long military dog tags history.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the first official request to issue service members with dog tags was in 1899 at the end of the Spanish-American war. U.S. Army Chaplain Charles C. Pierce, who was in charge of the Army Morgue and Office of Identification in the Philippines, recommended that all soldiers be issued circular disks to identify those who were severely injured or killed in action. 

By 1906, the Army required that dog tags be worn by soldiers and thus the Army ushered in a new chapter in military dog tags history. The dog tags were stamped with a soldier's name, rank, company and regiment or corps. The tags were worn around the neck with the field uniform, secured by a chain or cord.

Ten years later, the original dog tag order was modified and a second identical disc was required to be worn. The first dog tag would remain with the body of the fallen soldier, while the second was for burial service record keeping.

In 1917, when the U.S. Navy required all their sailors wear dog tags, the War Department finally mandated that all American combat troops have dog tags. The tags included the service member’s serial number and religious denomination to help with the disposition of remains. The Army, Navy and Marine Corps all had their own variety of dog tags, but the service branches were now a part of military dog tags history.

During World War II, the military dog tags history did not change much. Dog tags became part of the uniform and they evolved into the size and shape they are today. The dog tags from the World War II era were engraved with the name, rank, service number, blood type and religious preference. The name and address of next of kin was also included, as well as immunization information, but that information eventually was removed from dog tags after the war. 

As previously mentioned in this post, at one point in military dog tags history, dog tags had notches on them. Despite the untrue reasoning for this notch covered in a previous Depot Blog post, the notches existed because of the type of machine used to create them and by the 1970s, those machines became obsolete and the notched dog tags assumed their rightful place in military dog tags history.

Today, dog tags continue to be issued and they are an important part of battlefield identification. Dog tags used to include social security numbers as the military transitioned from serial numbers, and that lasted more than 40 years until 2015 when the services began to remove social security numbers over privacy concerns.

Lastly, advances in DNA technology and science have helped make identification of the fallen more exact and it has made military dog tags history. Nonetheless, dog tags are invaluable and continue to help bring our men and women in uniform home from the battlefield when they fall.

U.S. Navy Caps: Wear Your Personalized Cap with Pride

Personalized US Navy Cap front and back image

Serving in the U.S. Navy is a unique experience. Not many people on earth can say that they lived on a ship for several months of the year, for several years. Even fewer can say that they traveled all over the world on a ship.

For those reasons, being a Navy veteran is unique and Navy veterans can show their service pride by wearing US Navy caps. And just like in the Navy, there is a wide array of US Navy caps to choose from with just about every ship you can imagine available.

If you don’t have a particularly favorite ship, or maybe you spent the bulk of your Navy time on land, you can order US Navy caps with no mention of ships. However, if you’re like most former or current sailors, you will definitely have a favorite ship and you can order US Navy caps with your favorite ship on them.

When you order US Navy caps remember to get your name and rating stitched onto your cap for that special touch. Professional US Navy caps should include the ship’s name and hull number as a nice touch.

If you’re in the market for US Navy caps remember that USAMM can nicely customize one for you and get it to you pretty quickly just in time for Veterans Day or that special military event. Planning a reunion or thinking about hosting your shipmates? It is easy to order US Navy caps for all the sailors or former sailors in your life.

US Navy caps can also be used to commemorate service. Whether you are purchasing US Navy caps for yourself, or purchasing US Navy caps for someone else, these US Navy caps add to any Navy memorabilia collection. They can easily be included in any display at home or office.

US Navy caps allow you to show your service pride and they are really easy to order using USAMM’s US Navy caps builder technology.

If you’ve been putting off owning US Navy caps, buy one, give it a try. You won’t regret it.

Naval Rate Insignia: Honoring Our Sailors

USN E6 Rank with Aerographer insignia

To civilians, and even members of other military services, the U.S. Navy’s naval rate insignia can be confusing. The history of naval rate insignia is complicated, and has ebbed and flowed like the tides of the seas the Navy cruises on.

The naval rate insignia is unique and one of the first things that is noticeable is the use of the term “rate” instead of using the term “rank.” Rank is used to define officers. The second unique aspect of naval rate insignia is how a Sailor’s pay grade is linked to his or her rate. Ratings, it is important to note, also denote an occupational specialty.

For example, in the Army, a fictional infantry sergeant might be called Sergeant Smith. A sailor of equivalent rank/rate with a rating of boatswain’s mate would be Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Jones. The Navy combines rates and ratings in Sailors’ titles and this is represented in a person’s naval rate insignia.

History of Naval Rate Insignia 1700 to 1800s
The history of the naval rate insignia and rating system reflects the Navy’s historical evolution from a labor-intensive sailing fleet into a technologically-specialized force with a system for career progression.

Rates and ratings were one and the same in the 18th-century British navy. Common sailors of various skills and experience comprised the majority of a ship’s crew. Petty officers, derived from the French petit, meaning “small,” were appointed by a ship’s captain to fill key leadership positions amongst the common sailors.

In 1794, when the Navy was reestablished, petty officers were specifically requested and positional requirements were noted with the creation of rates to better manage the operation of the vessel. Naval rate insignia had begun to take root in the new American navy.

A rate structure without a specialized rating emerged and it continued until the 1880s and for the Navy’s first century, petty officers were appointed by the ship’s commander. They did not retain their rate if they were reassigned.

When steam engines were introduced, new naval rate insignia followed and rates like coal heaver, fireman, boilermaker, engineer’s force seaman and engineer’s yeoman, all started. Despite the pivot toward steam propulsion, petty officers with ratings like boatswain’s mates and gunner’s mates, rated ahead of sailors like machinists and boilermakers. This continued into the 20th century.

Over time the Navy’s system of rates and ratings became more formalized. Petty officers first received distinctive naval rate insignia in 1841, when they were instructed to wear an eagle perched on an anchor on one uniform sleeve. Naval rate insignia were approved in 1869, although they may have been in use informally already. In 1885, the Navy created first-, second-, and third-class petty officer rates, and seaman first, second-, and third-class rates for non-petty officers. Rate and rating thus became distinct categories for the first time. In 1886, petty officers were authorized to wear naval rate insignia consisting of a spread eagle over a downward-pointing chevron with a rating mark.

History of Naval Rate Insignia 1900s
In 1913, Sailors in the seaman branch were required to wear their naval rate insignia on the right arm, while all other ratings wore their naval rate insignia on the left. This practice gave rise to the term “right arm rate,” signifying a member of the seaman branch. In Navy culture, right arm rates are traditionally held to be more “salty” — tough and seamanlike — than Sailors in the more technical ratings.

The creation of the chief petty officer rate in 1893 was the final major change to rates and ratings in the 19th century and signified the increasing organizational complexity required by the steam-driven Navy. Petty officers were also allowed to keep their ratings upon reassignment.

In 1920, standardized pay was instituted so that all equivalent rates received the same pay. Regardless of what naval rate insignia a person wore, they now got paid the same. In 1922, uniform regulations changed to mandate that all naval rate insignia would be worn on the left arm, though the term “right-arm rate” continues to the present to describe Sailors in the seaman branch.

History of Naval Rate Insignia Today
After the Cold War, the Navy reduced and consolidated a number of ratings to reflect the changes driven by the Navy’s technological needs. In September 2016, the Navy announced that it was ending the tradition of referring to Sailors by their rating as part of an enlisted career management modernization plan. Under this plan, Sailors would be referred to by their rate: “Second Class Petty Officer” or “Petty Officer,” for example, rather than “Yeoman Second Class,” a practice identical to that of the other uniformed services. This change was meant to reflect the replacement of rating titles with new Navy Occupational Specialty (NOS) codes, a move intended to facilitate a personnel management system that would allow Sailors to move back and forth between occupations and allow greater credentialing opportunities. The plan was also part of an effort to move toward gender-neutral titles, in recognition of the twenty-first century Navy’s diversity. Many Sailors responded by vigorously defending the tradition of rating titles, and in December 2016 the Navy reversed course and announced that the rating system would remain in place. As of this writing, there are 56 general service ratings.

The Navy’s system of enlisted rates and ratings is one of the most distinctive features of the service, with roots that extend back to the Revolutionary War and beyond. Although many ratings have come and gone over time, boatswain’s mate and gunner’s mate have been in continuous use since the reestablishment of the Navy in 1794, and they are a direct link to that historic event for the Sailors who wear those naval rate insignia.

As the Navy and its personnel needs have evolved, a system originating in the age of sail has modernized and aligned itself with the other American armed services, while maintaining the service’s distinctive traditions. Striking the balance between tradition and adaptability is a crucial aspect of the twenty-first century U.S. Navy, and a task that will surely continue in a rapidly changing operating environment.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The information used in this post is from a U.S. Navy release and it is public information, but given the caliber and quality of the information, USAMM believes it is important to credit the original author, Nicholas Roland, a historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command.)

Military Memories: How to Preserve Your Family's Military History

Black Felt Memorabilia Shadow Box with medals ribbons and a folded flag

If you’re a veteran of the military and served within the last 30 years, you are fortunate from the standpoint that your military service is likely digitized and stored electronically by the federal government. Years ago, this wasn’t the case and the government maintained hard copy documents.

In the 1970s, millions of veteran service records were destroyed in a fire at the national personnel records center making it harder for families of veterans to collect their loved one’s military memories and recreate them for safekeeping. The loss of these historical documents dealt a huge blow to veterans trying to capture their military memories for posterity.

However, if you are a family member trying to assemble a loved one’s military history, you can likely succeed in assembling their military memories by following a few simple steps. First, ask yourself, what is your goal?

If you are trying to collect information about someone’s military service solely for your family’s personal knowledge then a great place to start might be with the veteran. Veterans will be able to elaborately share details of their military memories and they might have documents and other memorabilia from their time in the military that can help you reconstruct their service. This will enable you to orally share anecdotes to the rest of the family about the person’s military service.

If your goal is to capture military memories in something tangible like a shadowbox, talk to veteran about what he or she has. It is possible that maybe the veteran has documentation showing that they earned particular awards or were a part of a significant historical military event, but they lack the physical awards. If that is the case, with proper documentation, replacement awards can be ordered from the federal government or purchased online.

It could also be the case that the veterans have the actual awards or mementos from their military service, but the lack the documentation. In that case, records can be requested from the service branches to help you assemble a veteran’s military memories.

It is important to note that the longer a person lives, the more clouded a person’s memory can get. That’s why it is important for families who are interested in preserving military memories to use as much official documentation as possible to help their veterans and family reconstruct the person’s military memories.

That said, it is important to understand that military service, especially in earlier times, was a bit more fluid than today. For example, your great uncle might talk about military memories that include him getting a battlefield commission, that is, getting promoted from the enlisted ranks to the officer ranks during combat. That hasn’t happened in decades, but those types of things did happen and they are certainly a part of someone’s military memories.

Similarly, a person could have performed duties as a translator even though they were a mechanic if they spoke a language that was needed at a particular duty assignment. It is plausible that one of your family member’s military memories includes being an Italian translator when Italian forces were captured in World War II because Italian happened to be his native tongue. And maybe one of his fondest military memories is when a general pinned a medal on him for doing that job in WWII.

When it comes to preserving military memories for a family, the key is to have an objective and then collect as much information and as many items as possible. Shadowboxes are great for displays, but they are also a good place to store the awards. They don’t have to be displayed, but they are a great place to safely keep military memories.

Military Pride: Connecting with The Past Through Tradition

US Army officers in uniforms cutting large cake

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.

Military Patches Meaning: Pride and Tradition

Military Unit Patches

Military patches in the American military date back to the Revolutionary War when George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit, originally a patch that would go on to become the Purple Heart. However, since less than a handful of men earned the Badge of Military Merit, the use of patches on U.S. uniforms would not firmly take grasp until the Civil War.

The use of patches continued in the American military gaining strong use in the Civil War, but in World War II, the military patches meaning began to shift. Division patches, ranks and qualifications were military patches meaning to show information about a soldier without really communicating. Military leaders on a battlefield could find the right person for the right job just by looking at patches.

The military patches meaning since then has changed significantly. These days patches are worn not only to show a person’s rank, unit, and special qualifications, but also branch of service and military occupation.

Specialty Patches
There are other military patches meaning to represent participation in a special event, like a Far East Navy cruise or attendance in an exercise. These are often akin to esprit de corps patches, used only for a limited time and in a limited context. They are rarely extended in use and never become a part of the permanent uniform.

Army Patches
There are some military patches meaning something not so easily discernible, for example, many U.S. Army unit patches simply have symbols on them with no words. To some, they might appear as a rainbow or as an eagle head. But to members of that particular Army unit, the person is identifiable by the patch as one of their own.

U.S. Flag Patch
After 9-11, there were military patches meaning clearly that the forces wearing the U.S. flag patch were unapologetically American. It was almost as if the U.S. military wanted everyone to know the American military presence in places that gave safe harbor to terrorists.

Ordinarily prior to 9-11, most American military personnel were known because of a tape patch that had the initials “U.S.” in front of Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines.

Patches on Sleeves

Patches that look like dashes on sleeves are military patches meaning that a person has served overseas. In some branches, braids around the cuffs are military patches meaning that a person holds a particular officer rank.

Tabs, small patches worn on a soldier’s sleeve near their shoulders are military patches meaning that the person wearing the patch has completed Ranger school, Special Forces training or is Airborne. In recent years, other tabs have been added that are military patches meaning that the person wearing it has completed Sapper training or is part of an Advisor unit.

Military patches communicate various things. There are quite literally thousands of them and it is best to likely try to learn the patches of your branch first.

Military Mottos: Have Pride in Your Unit

Army soldiers shoulder unit patch with special forces ranger and airborne tabs

The U.S. military is often described as a team of teams. Within it are organizations, units, and sub-units that all carry their part of the objective—to fight and win the nation’s wars—leading to the ultimate success of our Armed Forces.

While the service branches might have slogans or military mottos, like the Marine Corps’ “Semper Fi,” military mottos have trickled down to the unit level. Not all units have them, but they are a source of personal and unit pride which helps members of a unit develop stronger bonds and esprit de corps.

For example, being a part of the U.S. Army with more than a million members might not make a soldier feel as if he or she belongs, but being a Sky Soldier of the 173rd Airborne Brigade might make that large Army smaller, more familiar when they say “To Our Utmost.”

The veteran employees of USAMM have compiled a short list of our top three favorites. Here they are, in no particular order.

“These Things We Do, That Others May Live”
U.S. Air Force pararescue, also known as PJs, by far have the most selfless missions in all of the U.S. military (not counting the Coast Guard). Therefore, it makes sense that their military mottos match that mission.

Often, the PJs military mottos are truncated, so you might see “That Others May Live” or even the hashtag #TOML used in spaces like social media. Whether you use the long version or short version of the PJ’s military mottos, one thing is for sure, they are bad ass angels of mercy who can pluck a downed pilot from behind enemy lines, or rescue boaters on a sinking vessel in stormy high seas.

“De Oppresso Liber”
Latin for “To Liberate the Oppressed,” this is the military mottos of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, more popularly known as the Green Berets. Although the mission of SF types is to train local military forces, their military mottos are a tip of the hat to their World War II heritage where special forces helped indigenous people fight against fascism.

De Oppresso Liber is sometimes confused with the nickname special forces personnel have been anointed with, “the quiet professionals.” SF personnel pride themselves on the fact that they can be inserted, perform a mission, and then leave quietly.

“Swift, Silent, Deadly”
Remember that the military is a team of teams. That said, the larger Marine Corps has Semper Fi as their military mottos. However, Marine Force Recon uses “Swift, Silent, Deadly” as their military mottos.  

Like the other military mottos we’ve mentioned, the Marine Force Recon’s mission is succinctly and accurately represented in their military mottos. They must enter an area of operations quickly and without detection and they must neutralize their threats.

Remember, not all units have military mottos, but those that do tend to have the most polished and professionally capable personnel in the U.S. military.

The Marine Corps Values: Words to Live By

Marine Corps soldiers in uniform saluting with US and USMC flags in background

Corporate greed and institutional decay brought about a tidal wave of organizational reflection in the 1990s and the U.S. military wasn’t immune to the introspection. During the 1990s, all the service branches formally adopted service-specific values that they had long ago embraced and lived since the services were founded. Most recently, in 2021, the U.S. Space Force adopted its own set of values.

The Marine Corps values are no different. Adopted formally in the 1990s, it is widely accepted that the Marine Corps values have been at the center of Marine Corps culture since 1775.

“Honor, Courage, and Commitment are not just words; they frame the way Marines are to live and act,” wrote the 30th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Carl E. Mundy Jr whose memorandum made official the adoption of the Marine Corps values.

The Marine Corps values for decades have helped the Marine Corps create its identity by expecting its Marines to live with Honor, Courage, and Commitment. It requires Marines to adhere to higher standards of professional and personal conduct, and devote themselves to the good order of discipline.

Mundy believed and wrote in his memo that the purpose of creating the Marine Corps values was to “Enhance transformation into U.S. Marines through a rigorous, thorough reaffirmation of Marine Corps Values training and education.”

Mundy penned the “Statement on Core Values of The United States Marines” and he identified each Marine Corps value. They are:

This is the cornerstone of Marine Corps values and character. This word is a beacon that helps Marines navigate the complex world in which they operate. It enables them to be ethical, uncompromising in principles, and to conduct themselves with integrity. By doing so, Marines are accountable for their actions and hold others accountable for their actions.

A Marine cannot be honorable without courage. As we’ve all heard, it takes bravery to do the right thing and courage thus is the centerpiece of the Marine Corps values. In addition, the physical nature of Marine Corps missions requires that Marines muster bravery and overcome the paralytic nature of combat. Intestinal fortitude is a huge part of the Marine Corps values, whether it means stepping up to do the right thing, or executing a hard mission with honor and integrity.

According to the Marine Corps, commitment is the spirit of determination and dedication found in Marines. It leads to the highest order of discipline for individuals and units. It is the ingredient that enables constant dedication to Corps and country. It inspires the unrelenting determination to achieve victory in every endeavor.

Clearly, the Marines expect a 24/7 commitment to the Marine Corps values. While a Marine may be off duty and not in uniform, they are still expected to live by the Marine Corps values. This commitment does not end when they leave military service.

Ask any Marine veteran and they will proudly tell you, once a Marine, always a Marine. This complete devotion and commitment to the Marine Corps values is what separates the Marine Corps from other branches of service.

How to Honor Veterans: Show Appreciation to the Veteran in Your Life

American veterans are a unique group of people all bound by one commonality—service to country. Regardless of what led a person to military service, the fact is that they were all called to serve.

Many veterans do not believe that they are owed any special treatment or recognition. Research polls continue to show that American society holds the veteran near and dear to its heart and since most veterans are humble people, it can be a challenge to figure out how to honor veterans.

Allow us to help. We asked veterans, including some of our USAMM team members who are veterans, how to honor veterans and this is what we learned.

How to Honor Veterans by Volunteering
Time is the greatest gift a person can give another. There are numerous veteran causes and non-profits that help veterans who might need assistance post-service.

With a little research, you can likely join a team that is helping build or modify a house for a veteran or you can spend time volunteering at the local veteran’s hospital, veterans’ home and with veterans’ organizations. This is probably the best way to honor veterans.

If service projects or community service aren’t your thing you can also attend and be a part of events that help the veteran community. Galas, silent auctions, golf outings, hunting trips, and other fun events help raise money for veteran organizations and many also offer the opportunity to interact with veterans.

How to Honor Veterans by Donating to a Veteran Service Organization
There are numerous veteran service organizations (VSO) that can use your physical assistance (volunteerism), but they can also use your financial support. These organizations help fill in the gaps that are created when veterans transition from the military into the civilian world.

While disabled veterans are compensated by the government for their injuries, sometimes their homes aren’t properly prepared to accommodate them if they return from their service with life-changing injuries. Some VSOs help modify homes and make them wheelchair accessible. Other VSOs help with transitional assistance like job training, caregiver support, and others help those who are still serving by providing comfort and support to deploying troops.

How to honor veterans becomes easier when you open your wallet, but remember that you have to open your heart first.

How to Honor Veterans by Acknowledging their Service
Memorial Day, Veterans Day, July 4th are just a few days throughout the year where you can reach out to the veteran in your life and thank them for their service. If you know a veteran personally, consider asking them to speak at a civic organization’s meeting, or at a local school or place of worship. Many schools, cities and counties have parades and recognition events where veterans can be included.

Veterans can also be recognized and acknowledged at your work and in community events. Veterans are a national treasure and they are living history. We can learn a lot just by speaking with them.

Military service, for many, is a transformative significant life event that leaves an indelible mark. When military personnel return to civilian life, their military service, despite the significance of it to the individual and to the security of the nation, usually just becomes a part of a veteran’s employment history.

If you know a veteran at work or in your community, take the time to highlight their service to the country when you can. Military themed awareness days (military birthdays, Veterans Day) are all opportunities for you to recognize someone’s service.

A social media post that offers a shout out to the person is a simple way to honor a veteran. Recognizing an Army veteran in a meeting on the Army’s birthday by bringing in some cupcakes or bagels is a nice touch and allows the veteran to see that co-workers value his or her service, and not just on Veterans Day. It is important to understand that when we think about how to honor veterans that we do not do it only once per year, but as often as we can.

How to Honor Veterans by Giving a Gift
As previously mentioned, veterans are normally a pretty humble bunch, so expect some awkwardness if you give them a gift. Most will tell you they do not feel right accepting something in return for their service, but small gestures matter.

For example, if you’re in a restaurant and you see a veteran wearing a Vietnam Veteran hat, ask the waitress to send you their check and pay for the veteran’s meal. You can do this anonymously, or approach the veteran and express to them what you’d like to do.

There are veterans from across all generations living in your community. On military-themed days, you can leave them gift cards on their doorsteps to show your appreciation for their service or if the veteran in your life is more than just a neighbor you can buy them a small token, like a veteran shirt, to show your appreciation for them. Remember, veterans are not charities, you are merely thanking them or recognizing them for what they did for our country.

Small personalized gifts are a nice way to say thanks.

How to Honor Veterans by Understanding
As we’ve often heard, only a small percentage of our population serves in the military. For most Americans, military service is about as familiar as walking on the moon. Therefore, it is important to understand the sacrifices that our military men and women make on behalf of the country. They often miss family birthdays, milestones and spend holidays away from their loved ones.

It is often stated that the U.S. military defends American freedom. Some argue that there aren’t any threats knocking on our doors like Pearl Harbor and German subs lurking off the coast of the United States, therefore, the American military is not really defending anything.

Others, like the millions of people who served in the aftermath of 9-11, see it differently. They feel that their service is a deterrent to those who threaten freedom. No matter how you see military service, as a nation, we are indebted to our veterans for their service and we should always be thinking how to honor veterans.