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The nice old man in the popular military meme is actually operator AF

If you follow us on Facebook or popular military pages like Terminal Lance, Duffel Blog, and others, chances are you've come across the meme of Sgt. Maj. Mike Vining.


You know, the soldier in his Army dress uniform with the smug, nice looking grandfather face wearing a huge fruit salad on his chest and massive spectacles.

Sergeant Maj. Mike Vining as a popular military meme

Yes, that one. After noticing the comments under one of our articles shared on Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said mentioning his badassery, we looked Vining up.

Turns out, he's operator as f-ck! While some may say, "duh, just look at his ribbons," it's easy to be dismissive with that Mr. Rodgers look — it just doesn't fit.

Related: A rare glimpse of life as a Delta Force operator

Vining's full list of military accolades, including his DD-214, career timeline, and pictures of him serving, are included in his Together We Served profile.

Most noticeably, Vining was a 1st SFOD-D — Delta Force — operator during his three decade Army career. Under the "Reflections on SGM Vining's US Army Service" section he comments about his decision to join Delta Force:

In 1978, I decided I wanted something more challenging, so I volunteered to join a new unit that was forming up at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They wanted people with an EOD background. The unit was 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta (Airborne). I spent the next 21 years in Delta and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), except for a year in a EOD unit in Alaska. In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.

Like most who served, he also had unforgettable buddies. When asked to recount a particular incident from his service that may or may not have been funny at the time — but still makes him laugh — he said:

It would be SFC Donald L. "Don" Briere. At times he reminded me of the cartoon character Wiley Coyote. We were in New Zealand in 1980 on a joint-country special operations exercise. We were on a recon mission to scout out a target site. It was just Don and I on the recon team. We had a tall steep muddy embankment that we needed to negotiate. I looked at it and thought, no way. Don thought we could do it. As he moved across it, you could see his hands and feet sliding down. He clawed up and slid down some more. Finally he slid all the way down the slope into the water. I was rolling with laughter and said, "You want me to follow you?" I found another way around the obstacle.

Vining continues to be involved with the military and veteran community, he's a member of several organizations, including the VFW, National EOD Association, and others, according to his profile.

After exploring his incredible career, Vining is someone we'd definitely love to have a drink with.