Being A Veteran With Long Hair

In Celebrate by El Sicario48 Comments

Long Hair and the Marine Corps Don’t Mix

This year marked ten years since I last went to war. As I reflect on who I was then, 21-year-old Sergeant Mejia of 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, I don’t think that guy would have ever believed he would someday be a veteran with long hair.
El Sicario's First deployment in Sangin Valley
El Sicario After 3 days straight of fighting

Who The Frick Am I?

One of many things the Marine Corps excels at is stripping you of who you were before joining up, and baking your identity as a Marine right down to your core. You’re a Marine first, and everything else gets filtered through that lens.

A lot of Marines struggle with that fact after leaving the service. I definitely did.

I decided to leave the Marine Corps in January 2013. Since then I’ve slowly but surely pieced together who I am now, while gaining some insight as to who I want to become. Part of that picture is being a veteran with long hair.

El Sicario in the awkward stage

What Is Veterans Day Exactly?

Formerly known as “Armistice Day” to commemorate the end of World War 1, November 11 was renamed “Veterans Day” in 1954 to acknowledge all who have honorably served in the United States Military.

This holiday shouldn’t be confused with Memorial Day, which honors people who died during their service, or Armed Forces Day, which is about celebrating people who are still actively serving in the military.

In the past, I was often troubled by some individuals (and especially companies), for whom Veterans Day is just a quick nod to those who wore a uniform, and perhaps an opportunity to move some inventory.

El Sicario Second deployment at 21 years old veteran

As I’ve matured I’ve come to realize that Veterans Day is for the veterans.

Ok captain obvious.

What I mean is that it’s hard to expect people to celebrate something they didn’t experience, and cannot truly relate to. Should I demand praise from someone who doesn’t understand, for something nobody asked me to do? If that doesn’t quite sit right, perhaps this day only needs to be meaningful to me and other veterans.

El Sicario looking cool

Enter The Hair

About four years ago, I decided being a veteran will always be a part of me, but it shouldn’t be the only part of me. I shouldn’t let my veteran status dictate how I act, or how I look.

As a 27-year-old private military contractor, I was starting to feel like a stereotype. You could tell I was a veteran by how I dressed, how I spoke, and definitely how I groomed myself.

I finally decided to let it ride and try something new. I let my beard grow and the hair soon followed. That simple little decision ended up being a huge influence on my life.

Things no longer had to fit in my rigid little box of identity. After making it through the awkward stage and loving how I looked with my epic mane, I grew an appreciation for new experiences all together.


I’m A Veteran With Long Hair

While no one will mistake me for a Marine these days, I realized I am still the same guy at my core. Just like being former military, long hair is part of my identity, but not the only part.

When I meet other veterans growing long hair, and especially Marines, I feel like there’s another level of understanding and shared identity. We’re still veterans, only now we’re veterans with long hair.

Are you a veteran with long hair? What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments.