Rituals in Military Service

The haircut – a high and tight fade with a #1 on the sides and #5 on the top slightly graded for bangs in the front.  The barbershops on base at Fort Jackson, SC and Fort Harrison, IN did it perfectly every time, every two weeks.  It was a nice, clean, easy look too.  When I served as a reservist and guardsman instead of AGR/AD, I can’t tell you how many civilian barber shops I went to in search of this same look.  Guys who said they did military style cuts never did that well.  Salons were even worse.  I told one woman what I wanted and she tried to do it with scissors!  Another time I walked into a barbershop in Crystal City and was greeted by an old woman with short hair that looked like it was cut by a mower – I shoulda walked out the door right then (sigh).

When I was discharged because I became unfit for service due to my bipolar symptoms, I searched even harder to find a barber who could do the cut.  Just that simple 10-15 minute haircut made me feel like I was part of something significant again.  It helped me relive glory days when I was part of something important, part of a team, part of something that mattered.  I never found a civilian who could do it that well in Indiana, and it wasn’t until four years after my discharge that I found someone who could.

A lot had happened in that four years.  I had dropped out of college again, spent all my money to stave off homelessness, lost the few good friends I had, and became homeless for nearly three years.  I had no career/job, no money, no friends, very limited contact with my very small family, no love, and no future.  I was barely living as I went to soup kitchens to eat and lived in a woodland tent outside of Fredericksburg, VA.  Looking back, the only thing I was living for was this thought:  “I am not supposed to be here.”  So, when I got the cut again, that same old high and tight faded perfectly tailored to just my head, I expected to feel that old, glorious feeling of importance and sense of a team – to reclaim that old identity of which I was so proud.  The feeling I had when my life was not in shambles.  But, it wasn’t there.  It was just a haircut.

Categories: Community Engagement & Service, Student Blogs

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