A Lake Houston Area Magazine


By Tiara Guard Marenco

Lest we forget! Veteran's Day

by Tiara Guard Marenco

Veterans and active duty are some of my favorite people. We are already held to a different standard and it doesn’t help that many times we enjoy setting ourselves apart. We have so many acronyms and codes that are required in everyday conversation, but I’m here to expose and decode some of the common phrases one might here apart from “rate related lingo”. Here is a list of phrases military personnel use between themselves and fellow branches that civilians should totally understand.




We all understood that arriving at the designated time for a physical readiness test, formation or even chow was a sin. And being fashionably late could reward you time in restriction (like home arrest for the military). A good rule of thumb was to ensure arrival 15 minutes before the designated start time.



This generally refers to civilian life before a service member joined. We use this when talking about our “past life”. Once you join the military, you are forever military. It’s like a tattoo. And most of us display it proudly.



In boot camp, the main objective is to make every service member as clone-like as possible. The first lesson we have to learn is that no one is more special than the next. So we get identical uniforms, haircuts, etc. This includes accessories like covers (hats) and glasses. Contacts are not afforded to the service member until arrival to a final duty station. If you are curious how ugly these glasses are, check out a picture of Drew Carey. He still wears his.



This term is from days of old when soldiers were paired together during war. If one fell, the other was there to administer aid, report back, or, worse case scenario, carry the body to safety. Nowadays it is casually used to describe a wing man. Women in the military commonly use battle buddies when we go drinking to keep an extra set of eyes on drinks, exits and, of course, cute men.



Originally an Air Force term based on looking for enemy aircraft behind you. Now this phrase is used in place of “watch your back”. I can remember using it a time or two to tell a friend they were getting checked out by the opposite sex as well.



One of my favorite phrases because of the original history. It is well known we do not salute a ranking officer in a combat zone. While there are many officers who've lost their lives to enemy snipers, it's unclear just how many were killed directly after some moron announced their importance to the rest of the enemy world. What we do know, however, is that the most famous American Marine Corps sniper took out a high-ranking enemy with the help of a salute.


Gunnery Sgt. Hathcock made his legendary shot at a North Vietnamese Army general from over two miles away. He was too far away to accurately tell which enemy was the general at a glance, especially when several people walked in a group. Take a single guess at how he identified who was who.


That being said, when you hear the phrase sniper check, it is normally one service member clarifying to another service member who the moron in the group is.



This is used to tell how many days left before a big event, for example, getting deployed, going on leave or separating from the military. If a member is going to bed on a Monday and departing on a Friday, he would say “four sleeps and a wake up.”



Commonly used to inform a group of bystanders to allow one person to move through them. The right generation, whether they served or not, can fondly remember hearing this phrase on the award winning TV series, M.A.S.H.




This is nothing more than the two words “mandatory” and “fun” squished together. Rarely was anything fun when this phrase appeared. More often it was used to describe an event like mandatory officer dinners or special events.



Another great combination of two words, “voluntary’ and “told”. Officers and higher ranking individuals would use this to portray an air of voluntary duty. We hated hearing this. It was the kiss of death to those who had no rank.




Refers directly to when troops used smoke to signal an incoming helicopter. Now it dictates someone wanting to leave in a hurry. Another similar phrase is “kick rocks”. This can also be used as a command, when one service member wants another to leave them alone.



Believe it or not, the military is government, and government isn't always efficient.


"Standby" is a "preparatory command." Usually the order to standby alerts a unit that it will receive some kind of marching orders - "standby to launch."


Unofficially, it's used to tell junior members to be ready and wait. Often, troops find themselves waiting for long periods of time because of logistics or command indecisiveness. Said sarcastically, "standby to standby" means that a unit is waiting to wait some more.


"Hurry up and wait," also said sarcastically, pokes fun at the military's propensity to perform tasks quickly, and then sit idly for long periods of time.



Most often referred to as the midnight watch, zero dark thirty means 12:30 am. In military time, clocks are on a 24 hour revolution, meaning midnight is 00:00. Occasionally we use the phrase ZERO STUPID THIRTY to indicate a ridiculous task that must be completed during the earliest hours of the morning.



Once in a while, you just know the day ahead of you is going to be hard to make it through. Maybe you have watch during a full moon. Maybe you are assigned an entire group of newbies for an assignment. Whatever the case, this is used as a reminder to “rub some dirt on it, you’ll be fine”. This sort of mentality helps to keep us running through the menial and mundane without too much complaint.


There you have it. A comprehensive list of phrases we use to describe everyday military life. I won’t lie, even now, after returning to the civilian world for 15 years some of these stick with me. In any case, using “voluntold” with my children has stopped many a disagreement on their part.


Take the time this Veterans Day to thank a service member. The only special treatment we really want is to be remembered for the sacrifices made.


We don’t do it because we have to,

We do it because we want to!



Happy Veteran’s Day!


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