Australians visiting the USA - the Military
If there's one thing that was obvious to me when I first moved to the US, it was the military. Everything about the military - the size, the presence and most significantly, the respect. Being in or being associated with the military in the US is received with great understanding and admiration.
Before I moved to the US, I didn't know a single person in the military (and my 85-year-old WW2 veteran Grandfather doesn't count!). Not one of my friends, family members or even distant acquaintances was in the military or was married to someone in the military. Army recruiters didn't come to High Schools to inform/convince graduating students to enlist. There weren't recruitment centers in my town. And don't even get me started on military ranks or abbreviations - I thought a Major was the best there was! The closest I'd got to anything military was the annual ANZAC Day commemorative ceremonies and marches through Sydney (ANZAC Day is comparable to the US Memorial Day).
And yes, I am now working with the military and yes my boyfriend is a US Marine whom I am incredibly proud of, so I guess I'm a little more exposed to the military than most. But even friends of mine or family members that have come to visit me have very quickly noticed how well-received the military are here.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Australia doesn't respect their military, nor am I saying that entering the military isn't promoted or well-received down under. But the level at which people in the military are revered in the US is simply remarkable.
One of the first things I noticed was what I refer to as the 'added bonuses' given to the military and their families here. Things like discounts at restaurants and movie cinemas, cheap rates on hotels and vacation packages and even their own shops and supermarkets, known as 'commissaries' or 'exchanges'. It's little extras such as these that go a long way in saying "thank you" to the service men and women who serve the country.
But I think one of the most obvious and heartwarming differences between the military in the US and well, in anywhere else I have been in the world (19 countries and counting), is simply the way they are acknowledged and received by the public. Little things like observing a soldier in uniform being thanked for his service by a 4-year-old girl at the airport and the importance of Memorial Day and Veteran's Day. The look on a woman's face when she sees her sailor husband return home for the first time in over a year and the simple offering to shake the hand of a war veteran. It's acts like these that highlight how admired the military in the US is.
I never really gave much thought to the military before moving to the US. I wasn't raised in a military home, I never entertained the thought of entering the military myself (expect for about a 30min brainwave that I wanted to be in the Navy!). And I certainly never saw myself in a relationship with a Marine!
So I guess what I'm trying to say is just remember where you are when you come to the US, especially if you visit a city drowning with military (believe me, it will be obvious early on!) Like me, you may not know much about the military and your only exposure to it may only come via what you see on the news and in Hollywood movies. So try not to be ignorant or disrespectful. You may have differing opinions about who the military are and what they do, but try to show a little compassion and respect. Same goes for when you are at home too.
Regardless of my job or my personal life, I am so glad I moved here and was given the opportunity to experience military life, the military way of thinking and memorial ceremonies such as Pearl Harbor Day on December 7. It has opened my eyes to a career and indeed a world once foreign to me. Given the honor of wearing my Grandfather's medals on ANZAC Day last year was one of the proudest of my life, followed very closely by accompanying said USMC boyfriend to a Ball earlier this year. For all they do for their country, I have the utmost respect.