In my family, we have a tradition involving passing a US flag down from generation to generation. The recipient of the flag has to be a person who served in the US military. When a generation comes that a person hasn't served, the flag will be buried with the last person to serve.
I always marveled at this tradition, and to a point, it almost convinced me to try to join the Army myself. But, I wasn't qualified to pass the entry standards, so it wasn't meant to be.
As I looked at my friends, I noticed a lot of families have military traditions. I wondered why. So, I decided to find out.
If there's one thing you have to hand to the Armed Forces, it's how tight-knit they are. That closeness tends to breed a culture within a culture, and that tends to translate into military families as well.
There's a reason why people talk about the military wife life or discuss what it's like to grow up as a military brat. It is a very tight-knit culture with its own lifestyle and traditions that spread out to kids and everyone near them.
Military families have military traditions. When you have entire families growing up military-style, a lot of the culture will stick with you well into adulthood.
It really only takes one major family patriarch or matriarch to bring military traditions to life for others.
Only one family member has to be a devout military fan in order for a family to boast military traditions to the generations below them. The flag tradition my family has is one such example.
My great-grandfather was in the military and started the tradition. My grandfather, inspired by his father's service, joined the Air Force and became a World War II hero. My aunt followed his lead. See where I'm getting at?
There's currently an entire class of people who eat, sleep, and breathe military life. Their friends are all military members, military spouses, or are friends who grew up around military bases.
The reasons why are manifold. It's a rough life. It can be hard to find civilians that understand. With the military, you know everything will be regimented, understood, and supportive.
When military marries military, the chances of traditions being kept alive multiply almost exponentially. It's cultural reinforcement.
To be fair, it's not like military traditions are bad.
Have you ever attended an Officer's Ball? Or, have you ever had the luck to be invited to a traditional military wedding? Military traditions are often far more decadent and put-together than regular traditions tend to be.
That nice air of decorum is really refreshing in times where everything is casual to the point of crappy, don't you think?
In World War II, air freight became less expensive for mainstream civilians to use. This led to the invention of "care packages" involving freshly-baked cookies getting sent to troops fighting the war. It quickly became a tradition among families that spread to other situations.
Every time you get a care package from mom for college, or for your time abroad, you're experiencing the love and support military traditions offer. Oh, and if you donate to Toys for Tots around Christmas? That's also a military tradition.
So, part of the reason families have military traditions is because they're mainstream.
There's also the element of patriotism that military traditions bring.
Military traditions are a bit different from most civilian traditions. They aren't just about your family and showing the bond you have with them. They are more about supporting your family as a team, and doing good for the community around you.
The cool thing about this is that it naturally brings a certain element of patriotism to your family. It's nice to feel patriotic, and once you make it part of your lifestyle, it's hard to let go of that.
One of the best examples of this is having a family tradition of going into the military. For some families, it's not a matter of "if" you join the Army or Navy, but a when.
Among these families, enlisting is a tradition that all family members are often expected to partake in. For most civilians, the idea of being happy to hear that your son could be sent to fight in a war would be horrifying.
However, many military families don't see it this way. Rather, they see it as a way to get a wonderful career for their kids that will take care of them in old age.
Some traditions are downright fascinating and are kept long after military members are no longer in the family.
Let's just be real. There are some seriously cool military traditions around the world—and some of them are really impressively fun. When you have a tradition that's downright awesome, people will want to share it with others and keep that tradition alive.
All things considered, that's one of the bigger reasons why so many families have military traditions they practice. Sometimes, those traditions just make people happy.
Anyone who has grown up around military brats can tell you that being raised by military service members tends to give you certain traits that help you later in life.
Things like saying, "Yes, sir," and, "Yes, ma'am," showing respect, and also having discipline are very closely tied to traditional military upbringings. Among my family, we are often told that families have military traditions as a way to encourage that level of respect.
How true this is, I don't know. But, it's food for thought.
Finally, there's also the sheer number of veterans and service members America has.
The biggest reason why so many families have military traditions deals with the size of our military. America has one of the largest militaries in the world, with over 2 million members currently in service.
When you factor in the 20.4 million veterans we have, it's easy to see how come so many families are military families. At the very least, it makes you realize how many people you have to thank for your freedom and safety, doesn't it?