1001 Things to Love About Military Life


By Tara Crooks

By Starlett Henderson

By Kathie Hightower

By Holly Scherer

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A first-of-its-kind celebration of military life, 1001 Things to Love About Military Life chronicles some obvious and not-so-obvious traditions, advantages and experiences military members, veterans and their families share.

Full of heart-warming vignettes, laugh-out-loud lists, stories and quotes from military members and family members, and photos that speak a thousand positive affirmations, this inspirational look at those who dedicate their lives to serving perfectly illustrates why it is a profession and lifestyle to love.

You’ll find practical truths most service members wouldn’t want to live without and learn the unique outlooks, services and advantages military life provides. Military or civilian, you’ll experience the community and personal growth that the military offers.

Whether you have a friend or loved one in the military, you’re a service member ready to head out on duty, a spouse gearing up to take charge of the household, a veteran in need of a few good laughs, or a new recruit looking for encouragement, this book provides inspiration and insight into the lives of today’s dedicated and courageous military families.


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Table of Contents

Photo Sources

Copyright Page

Photo by Spc. Sharla Lewis


When we first told people we were writing this book, responses ranged from "How can you talk about things to love with a war going on and military members being horribly wounded or killed?" to "Thank you for reminding us of all the good in the military and military life."

There are certainly a lot of things to not love right now about our military reality, as we continue into our tenth year at war. Military members and their families only make up one percent of the population but they are bearing one hundred percent of the sacrifice of war. The horrors of war, death, physical wounding, stress disorders and emotional suffering, and repeated separations, will impact our military families and society for a long time to come. War is hell. Even in peacetime, military life is constantly challenging.

However, research continues to show focusing only on the negatives can pull you into a downward spiral of despair and loss of hope. So, we decided to count the positives. The fact is, there are many things to love about military life. We really did not have trouble getting to 1001.

Our desire is that those of you who are or were in the military will read this—keeping in mind families and children serve too—and find yourself nodding in agreement at many of the items. Of course we know every example won't apply to every military member. Our military experiences differ as much as we do as individuals. We trust the examples we include will trigger your own memories and encourage you to share your favorites with your family and friends.

For those of you who are not in the military, we are confident this book will give you some insight into this military life and help you see why we have such pride in our military and lifestyle. Why we have not lost hope.

There is no greater love than a love that is willing to sacrifice or die, paying the ultimate sacrifice, for another. Our Service members love their brothers-at-arms and they love their country—freely and selflessly. Our aim is to help the country love back the same way, without reservations arising from the lack of an introduction to, knowledge of, or insight into our military way of life.

Ask any of us, "Knowing what you know now, would you choose this lifestyle again?' "


We are grateful for the amazing people we've come to know in our military family and for the people we ourselves have become as a result of this lifestyle.

There are indeed 1001 things—and more—to love about military life.


When I joined the Army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all my boyish hopes and dreams.


Photo by Laura Fleming Photography












1. The opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience that will change your life

Recruiting slogans are created to show possible recruits things they can expect from a career in the military, but to us these slogans reflect the reality of military life.

–STAFF SGT. DAN MCINTOSH, U.S. Army recruiter

2. Pride of service—becoming part of a team that values making a difference by serving others

Ask not what your country can do for you.

Ask what you can do for your country.


3. Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC), or rating—learning a skill that will transfer into civilian life

4. Devotion to duty

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again… who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

–THEODORE ROOSEVELT, "Citizenship in a Republic"

5. Military leadership training, which is often "copied" in the civilian world

A good leader is one who causes or inspires others… to do the job. His worth as a leader is measured by the achievements of the led. This is the ultimate test of his effectiveness.


6. The opportunity to live in foreign countries

Many Americans plan for years, often waiting for retirement, to take the "trip of their dreams" to Europe or Asia. And if they do manage to go, it's usually for a week or two, possibly three if they are lucky, racing around from site to site to pack everything they can into that short time. They create memories by snapping photos on the way to the next tourist attraction. "Photo op… you have five minutes" is the common call of tour bus guides.

Compare that to the experience of many military members and their families. When you get to live in a foreign country for a year—or often longer—you experience that country in depth. Not only do you get to visit the country's highlights as listed in tourist brochures, you can visit these key attractions in off-season to avoid swarms of tourists. Plus, you get to live the life of the locals in many ways.

For example, living in Germany year-round, you can shop in the local butcher shops, cheese stores, and bakeries. You know when the farmers' markets start up and find your favorite vendors to return to each week. You can enjoy traditional Neu Wein, Zwiebelkuchen, and Spargelsuppe in spring and Kristkindlmarkts, Glühwein, and Lebkuchen in winter. Most important, you get to know the locals, learning about their customs and sharing your own.

7. A way up and out of a small town, big city, bad situation, or simply a rut

Eight years ago I was living in Philadelphia and I was not exactly heading in the direction I wanted for my life. A friend of mine told me he was going to join the Air Force and after he told me about the college benefits and some of the programs they had, I decided to at least go talk to a recruiter.

My first deployment cemented my love of the Air Force, and showed me that there are a lot of opportunities in my career field. So much has happened. I've been coined by two different Secretaries of the Air Force and dozens of Generals. I've helped with relief efforts… Hurricane Katrina and the recent earthquake here in Japan. I had the opportunity to spend two years teaching combat skills to over 1,600 different Airmen across the Air Force who were deploying into dangerous countries. I graduated college with a bachelor's in Computer Science at almost no cost to me. The Air Force has been nothing but opportunities for me.

–SCOTTY D., I'm Big in Japan blog, MILBloggies' 2011 Best U.S. Air Force Blog

What is it like to be a military woman?… It's like never being alone again in your entire life. It's having a family and discipline that your alcoholic parents could never give you. It's a chance for a high school dropout to turn her life around and make something of herself… It was an experience I will cherish forever because the military saved my life and gave me the foundation that made me the person I am today.

–ELDONNA LEWIS FERNANDEZ, retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant and coauthor of Heart of a Military Woman

8. Developing a work ethic and discipline that sticks with you the rest of your life

I was joining the Marine Corps for challenge and adventure, but everybody kept bringing me back to the fact that the Marine Corps was going to make you a leader… It's about being disciplined, decisive, and ultimately it's about being authentic every single day… Who would have thought the Marine Corps would teach me the skill set that would allow me to be a better parent, a better spouse… ultimately, a better civilian.

–ANGIE MORGAN, entrepreneur and leadership consultant, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, 1997-2006

Baby Blues © 2011 Baby Blues Partnership. King Features Syndicate

9. A higher standard

Work to standard, not to time.

Integrity first!

10. A well-respected profession

Gallup periodically conducts surveys to determine which professions Americans regard as ethical and which ones they don't. At the release of its 2010 poll, Gallup compared the results to those from 2004 to the present.

The professions that earn positive ratings from the public are, from top down: nurses, the military, pharmacists, grade school teachers, doctors, police, clergy, judges, and day care providers.

The group whose ratings with the public have risen the most? The military, at plus 8 percent.

When it comes to asking Americans which public institutions they have confidence in, the military has ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in Gallup's annual Confidence in Institutions list almost every year since the measure was instituted in 1973, and has been No. 1 continuously since 1998—higher than the police, the church/organized religion, the presidency, or the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gold is good in its place, but living, brave, patriotic men are better than gold.


11. The opportunity to participate in peacekeeping and humanitarian support missions around the globe

Without exception, the CEOs interviewed for the 2006 Korn/Ferry International report The Military and CEOs: Is There a Link? emphasized that the military offers an early opportunity to acquire hands-on leadership experience that cannot be found in the corporate world or at a similarly early stage in civilian careers.

12. Instant responsibility regardless of age

Where else can you fly planes, be the tip of the spear, and save lives, all at such a young age? One Coast Guard slogan says it best:

Born Ready!

13. Food and shelter

A single person who joins the military is guaranteed to have a place to sleep and food to eat. It's great for young men and women who may not have figured out how to budget their money. If they blow their whole paycheck in the first week, they can still survive.

14. Demolition

Certainly, one of the most thrilling experiences in a peacetime training environment is detonating explosives. That ranges from pulling the trigger on a bullet launcher, which sets off a controlled explosion in the chamber of a rifle or pistol, to initiating a blasting cap, which starts an explosive chain in demolitions.

One of the larger demolition weapons is the mine-clearing line charge, or MICLIC. Designed to open a vehicle-wide path through a minefield, it is a coiled, thick rope of explosives, which is carried over the minefield by a rocket.

Once launched, approximately a ton of explosives detonate at one time. Any mines in the desired pathway also detonate. This is a huge explosion, incredibly loud, with vivid colors, and accompanied by a powerful blast of waves that rocks even heavy armored vehicles.

–JACK SCHERER, U.S. Army combat engineer

Photo by Scott Spitzer

Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne jump from a C-141 Starlifter.

15. Flying

The thrill of flying in helicopters or jumping from planes. Need we say more?

16. Weapons training

Learn to shoot a .50-caliber machine gun, a main tank gun, a 40mm grenade launcher, and/or an anti-tank rocket.

17. Living your own boot camp or basic training stories

When I left Parris Island I walked tall, my shoulders were rolled back, head and eyes straight to the front, and there was nothing in the world I didn't think I could accomplish when I left the Motivated Island as we call it.

–LT. COL. JERRY CARTER, U.S. Marine Corps, enlisted 1985, awarded a U.S. Navy ROTC scholarship, commissioned 1992

Photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass

Service members render honors as fire and rescue workers unfurl an American flag at the Pentagon following the September 11 terrorist attack.

18. The opportunity to defend freedom

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.


19. Developing self-confidence

Ben is a middle child. He was never needy, always quiet, not very social—very reserved. He wasn't outgoing, wasn't really involved in sports, but he was extremely smart. He always made straight As without even trying. He graduated from high school with no plans for college. Two years later his life was at a standstill, so he decided he would join the U.S. Coast Guard.

We were all very shocked and didn't like the idea. We were very unsure that this was the right path for him. But he always loved the water, boats, airplanes, and helicopters. (One time he saved a friend from drowning in a pool.) He ended up joining, and we supported him.

We think back on that day and wonder why we ever doubted such an intelligent, determined boy. We're so proud of him for joining the Coast Guard. It was the best thing he has ever done. It helped him become the man he was struggling to become at that time. It gave him confidence in his abilities. He was able to work with his hands in different areas, which fed his hunger for learning. It gave him a role of authority in his life.


The Coast Guard broadened his horizons by carrying him many places in the world that he would have never gotten to see otherwise. Now, he has many stories to tell. He also made TONS of friends—really military "brothers."

He has great insurance, benefits, and money for college. As a family, witnessing these things firsthand—all the changes he was going through—helped us to let go of him. We could finally let him become his own man. It gave us confidence in him, and we knew he was going to be all right.


20. Getting your body and mind in great shape so you'll be ready to face any challenge that comes your way

… it [Marine Corps training] just gives you the mental toughness that it takes… Anything can be accomplished with discipline… I came in an undisciplined eighteen-year-old kid thinking I knew everything… I left there a man with purpose.

–AHMARD HALL, starting fullback for Tennessee Titans, Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, 1998-2002

21. Making history while creating your future

22. A fast track to success

Male military officers are almost three times as likely as other American men to become CEOs, according to a 2006 Korn/Ferry International study.

I never heard anything at MIT or Harvard that topped the best lectures I heard at [Fort] Benning.

–WARREN BENNIS, author and pioneer in leadership studies, U.S. Army 1943-1947, awarded Purple Heart and Bronze Star

23. Finding out what you're capable of

Joining the Army was one of the best things I ever did. I was able to find out who I was. It allowed me to grow and become confident in my own skin. I gained confidence and pride in who I am and what I can do. Being a Soldier and serving your country is an honor and I was glad to be part of such an amazing institution. The best part is once you are in—you are always part of something bigger than yourself.

–CHRISTINA PIPER, Army wife and military brat; her great-grandfather, grandfather, father, and uncles all served; cofounder of HerWarHerVoice.com

24. A happy place to work

The headline hit the newswires and spread quickly in October 2010: "U.S. military beats out Disney as happy place to work."

CareerBliss, an online career-guidance tool, used 91,000 independent reviews to evaluate companies based on opportunities for growth, compensation, benefits, work-life balance, career advancement, senior management, job security, and whether the employee would recommend the company to others.

"It was interesting to see how well the military ranked relative to many top-tier corporations," said vice president Rick Wainschel. "After reviewing the comments from hundreds of reviews, it was clear our military Service members not only take pride in serving and protecting our country but find a deep sense of personal accomplishment in the important work that they do."

The Army and National Guard ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the career advancement category, beating out Google for the top spots. The military also ranked high in growth opportunity, benefits, and job security.

Bradley Brummel, a professor of industrial/organizational psychology at the University of Tulsa (Oklahoma) and a member of the CareerBliss advisory board, added, "Despite challenges that may occur when serving our country, including the possibility of going to war, the military provides many of the essential elements to finding happiness at work, including having a meaningful impact on the world, having true camaraderie with your co-workers, and having the opportunities to develop skills."

25. Making something of yourself

You will become what you make of yourself. And it is that experience of being brought down to the common level, with everyone else, and knowing that everything you do from that point forward is something that you will treasure as your own. You haven't been given it. You haven't bought it. It hasn't been willed to you. You've earned it!

–ADAM FIRESTONE, Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, 1984-1991

26. ROTC scholarships

27. Paid-for education for certain specialties

The military will pay for education for those who wish to become chaplains, lawyers, optometrists, psychiatrists, dentists, physical therapists, physicians, nurses, and veterinarians. These opportunities are competitive and you incur an obligation of service, usually one-for-one for each year of education. You end up with your professional degree without huge student loans to repay, and you step immediately into work in your field inside the military.

28. Student loan repayments

29. The GI Bill

"A hell of a gift, an opportunity." "Magnanimous." "One of the greatest advantages I ever experienced." These are the voices of World War II veterans, praising the GI Bill, as reported by Suzanne Mettler, author of Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation.

As she discovered from extensive interviews with GI Bill recipients, the educational opportunities provided by the program following WWII transcended boundaries of class and race, enabling so many young men to attain educational degrees and access to professions and opportunities they had never dreamed of.

GI Bill "success stories" abound, from former U.S. Senator Bob Dole to William H. Rehnquist, sixteenth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Frank Lautenberg was born to poor Russian and Polish immigrants. After serving in the Army, he earned an Economics degree from Columbia University on the GI Bill. With two childhood friends, he went on to found ADP, one of the largest computing service companies in the world.

He later dedicated himself to public service, eventually being elected to the United States Senate representing New Jersey and now serving his fifth term. One of the programs he's helped champion is the modernizing of the GI Bill for military serving today.

[The GI Bill had a] transformative effect on the lives of so many veterans like me.


30. The possibility of retirement at a relatively young age



History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.


Photo by Shannon O'Connor


I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.


I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of (STATE NAME) against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the Governor of (STATE NAME) and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to law and regulations. So help me God.

31. Oath of Service

Everyone who enlists or re-enlists in the Armed Forces of the United States is required to take the enlistment oath. The oath of enlistment into the U.S. Armed Forces is administered by any commissioned officer to any person enlisting or re-enlisting for a term of service into any branch of the military.

The Officer's Oath of Office is additional to the Oath of Service and different for each branch.

32. Chain of Command

One great example of the Chain of Command in action is how Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower approached D-Day. He had spent three years planning the invasion. On the day of, as Supreme Commander, he did not issue a single command. The plan and orders were in place, and it was up to those in the "chain" to execute and follow through. His job—trusting his men!

"Pilot" is the most commonly searched-for military career on TodaysMilitary.com.

33. Being paid to learn how to

Fly a plane


Rock climb

Scuba dive

Jump out of an airplane

34. Your day at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS)

Sweating the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), walking like a duck, and raising your right hand: all those things you did to "get in," "enlist," or "join up"

35. Commander in Chief

Knowing that our orders come through the people and Congress, and directly from the "buck stops here" position at the White House

36. Being an unofficial ambassador for our country when living overseas

37. Being challenged to perform at your highest level, often way past what you ever thought you were capable of

The difficult we do at once.

The impossible takes a bit longer.


38. Standing in formation on returning from deployment, overwhelmed by gratitude… and impatient to hear the words, "Fall out!"

39. Basking in your parents' pride and feeling like you've lived up to their expectations


On Sale
Nov 2, 2011
Page Count
352 pages
Center Street

Tara Crooks

About the Author

Tara Crooks is a thriteen-year military spouse known for her ability to inspire and empower. She is co-founder of Army Wife Network, a national motivational speaker, talk radio host, and enthusiastic volunteer. She and her husband Kevin have two daughters.

Starlett Henderson is a military veteran and National Guard spouse of sixteen years. Her desire to counsel and uplift military families drives her as Army Wife Network’s co-founder, speaker, and talk radio host. Star and her husband have two children.

Kathie Hightower is a military spouse of thirty-two years. She’s retired from the Army Reserves; her husband is retired Army. An author and international speaker, Kathie’s inspirational programs encourage corporate and military audiences to access possibilities and “Jump into Life.”

Holly Scherer is an awarded community leader and military spouse of twenty-seven years. She’s an author, columnist, and international speaker encouraging and enabling her audiences to live life “Now, not When.” Her husband is retired Army; they have two teenagers.

Learn more about this author