As a child, birthdays are a big event. Every year is celebrated like it's the biggest day of the year. Then there are milestone birthdays: They'll hit the sweet 16 and get their license, turn 18 and join the military, turn 21 and they legally drink...and then that's about it. Unless they're looking for a sarcastic "congratu-f***ing-lations," it's just another day in the military.
Even though some members of the chain of command have good intentions, it's best not to test the waters by letting everyone know it's your birthday. Here's why:
Don't think you can just take in the singing. You'll be in the front leaning rest position through it all.
(photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)
Your gift is embarrassment
Think of the moment when you go to a chain sit-down restaurant and one of your buddies mentions it's your birthday to the staff and they come out to sing "happy birthday" with almost no excitement in their voice.
Imagine that except it's the rest of your company singing, they all know you, and they're slightly agitated because they have to take ten seconds out of their day to sing to you.
The intention is to make you awkward. And it works almost every single time.
And yet for some reason, they always add the "And one more for the Corps. One more for the unit! One more for the First Sergeant!" Like the "one per year" thing didn't apply. How old do they think you are?
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Crystal Druery)
Push-ups for every year
If troops let it slip that they've successfully made another orbit around the sun, it's not like there will be a surprise party secretly waiting in the training room. The poor unfortunate souls are often given the most re-gifted present in the military: push-ups.
There's no spite in this. And despite how civilians feel about push-ups, they really aren't that bad. But the troop owes Uncle Sam one push-up for every year they've been on this Earth. It's in good fun though and they're almost always done with a grin.
Happy birthday, ya poor b******.
(Meme via Terminal Lance)
There (usually) won't be cake
Cakes are actually a lot harder to find on military installations than you'd think. If the kindhearted soul who does want to do right for the party, they'll need to go off-post.
For everyone else (and those troops in the field or deployed) they'll often just get a doughnut or the pound cake that comes in the MRE. Candles are optional but they're occasionally cigarettes.
"Cool. You're older. Now get back to work."
(U.S. Army Photo)
It's still a regular work day
In between the awkwardness, the pranks, and mediocre reception, the Army goes rolling along. It's still just a regular old day.
Some chains of command may give single troops a day off (usually as a consolation prize because they give married troops their anniversary off.) Some don't. The work still needs to get done and it'll feel like it's just any of the other 364 days in a year.
You know your squad has your back if they carry your home from the bar.
(U.S. Army Photo)
But the squad (usually) does care
The squad is your new family. Just like your siblings went out of their way to make sure your birthday was special, so do your squad-mates.
Just like the push-ups, the squad will usually get together and buy shot for every year you've been on this Earth and share them with you.