17 Ways to Spot a Military Veteran by Their Habits

Wondering how you can spot a military veteran when out and about? You may just find they have some very distinct habits in common that give them away. From quick eating to their extreme punctuality, here are 17 things that distinguish veterans from regular citizens.

Purposeful Walking

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You’ll often find that both veterans and active military members walk at a quick and determined pace, traveling with purpose. They may be walking as if they’re on an important mission instead of just a trip to the grocery store. Compared to the rest of us, veterans walk less casually with a more focused stride.

Distinctive Hairstyles

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As shared by We Are The Mighty, “U.S. military recruits have their locks shorn in the first weeks of training, a buzz cut that is otherwise known as ‘The Army’s Finest.’” After having served, many find themselves maintaining a preference for the short, practical haircut. Veterans tend to keep their hair short, well-groomed, and neat.

Rapid Eating

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Do you know someone who, along with some of the other habits on this list, tends to eat very quickly? They may well be veterans. Veterans are known for eating quickly and efficiently, with less focus on savoring the food and more on completing the meal. This is a habit formed by limited meal times in the military.

Commanding Presence

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A veteran will typically exude a confident, commanding presence—even when they’re not trying to. This may come in the form of a power stance, where they stand tall and proud, often with their arms crossed. They’ll project authority and show other subtle signs of leadership qualities.

Using Military Jargon

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Another obvious tip-off that someone has served is their use of military jargon. They may use words like “roger” or “negative” in conversations and will incorporate various other military slang and acronyms that the typical person wouldn’t. A veteran will also likely have a clear and direct communication style.

Synchronized Walking

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According to Science.org, “Marching in perfect synchrony is the first thing every soldier must learn.” So, if you see several people moving with coordinated arm swings or walking rhythmically, often unconsciously, they’re likely veterans. A veteran will also have the tendency to fall in step with others.

Consistent Use of Sunglasses

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Have you spotted someone frequently using sunglasses, even in non-bright or cloudy conditions? Veterans do tend to wear sunglasses as a part of their everyday attire, for some reason. They may also have a preference for military-style or practical sunglasses.

Always Being Early

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Military veterans are often extremely punctual, and typically even early, by habit. They may arrive as early as 15 minutes before appointments and events. This is because they’ve been taught to view being on time as late by military standards. Veterans have a habit of planning ahead to ensure their punctuality.

Politeness in Address

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Unlike most people these days, both veterans and active service members tend to have formality in their interactions, regardless of the setting they’re in. They often continue to address others as “sir” or “ma’am” long after they’ve stopped serving, demonstrating respect and discipline in conversations.

Meticulous Planning

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As shared by VPMMA on LinkedIn, “Military veterans are trained to pay close attention to detail, as small mistakes can have significant consequences in the field.” You may notice a veteran creating detailed plans with backups and avoiding spontaneity in favor of structured plans. They are also frequently prepared for various scenarios.

Preference for Practical Footwear

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Military veterans often show a preference for practical, durable footwear, avoiding flashy or impractical shoes. They also tend to keep their shoes in excellent condition, maintaining cleanliness and good repair. This habit stems from the military’s emphasis on functional dress and the importance of foot care during active service.

Adaptability to Weather

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Veterans rarely complain about weather conditions and show a strong tolerance to extreme heat, cold, or wet conditions—a resilience likely built from outdoor military exercises and deployments. This adaptability signifies their endurance and readiness for any environmental challenge and is a key way to spot them.

Precision in Language

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“Military jargon used to communicate systems, positions, geography, and terminology is plentiful,” as per Military.com. If you know someone who frequently uses specific military terminology for everyday items, has a preference for clear and accurate descriptions, or has a habit of using military terms as inside jokes or insults, you’ve likely got a veteran on your hands.

Constructive Criticism

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Veterans have the ability to point out flaws in a straightforward yet respectful manner, not shying away from the truth. They’re able to deliver feedback effectively and balance honesty with tact in communication, something that was necessary when serving. Combined with some of the other habits on this list, constructive criticism is one way you can spot a veteran.

Vehicle Maintenance

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Veterans typically take exceptional care of their vehicles, a habit formed by the military’s emphasis on the importance of maintaining equipment. This attention to detail extends to their personal vehicles and those of their loved ones, ensuring they’re always in top condition, reflecting their discipline and pride in their possessions.

Respectful of National Symbols

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While others may not pay much attention to national symbols, veterans often demonstrate respect for national anthems and flags because they truly understand the significance of these symbols. This respect is a reflection of the values instilled during their time in the military.

Reserved About Military Service

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Veterans are often reluctant to discuss their military experiences, especially combat. According to the CDP, reasons for veterans being reserved about their service include operational security, wanting to protect their loved ones, or being fearful about how people will react. You may find that veterans prefer to focus on their current interests or activities.

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