Why I Wear His Dogtags

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Why I choose to wear my fiance's dogtags. When I first decided to wear John’s dogtags, I never thought it would be such a conversation piece. In June, when I started wearing it, I tried to keep it hidden under my shirt because I didn’t want to draw attention to it. Now, 113 days in, I forget I’m wearing it for long stretches of time.

From what I gathered (via the internet, of course) after deciding to wear one of John’s tags, wearing it is actually pretty controversial in the military community. This is why I’ve decided to keep John’s on: it’s not to make other people comment or to make them pity or commiserate with me. I don’t think I’m serving next to John (after all, he’s in Afghanistan for a year, with all of the crud that comes with deployment. I’m just dodging bullets and crazies in Baltimore, but I can get a sub at Quiznos and enjoy plunking my butt onto my couch after a crazy day at work.). I don’t think I deserve recognition for just waiting for and worrying about John; he’s doing all of the hard stuff, after all.

Here’s why I wear it: it’s a tiny reminder of the guy I love to pieces and who I’m going to marry in less than a year. I wear it because I miss him. I wear it because, even though it sounds really, really idiotic, it’s nice to wear something that he’s also wearing  7,000 miles away. It feels like he’s a little closer. True, maybe it only makes him feel 6,999 miles closer… but closer is closer. I’m not splitting hairs.

Even though I don’t notice it anymore, doesn’t mean that no one else does. It’s quite the conversation starter and comments magnet! So, I’ve compiled (or really, just tried to remember as best as I can) the comments that I’ve gotten regarding John’s tag.

Most common question:

Is it real?
(Answer: Yeppers. Totes real.)

Second most common question:

Doesn’t he need that?  
(Answer: John has two others that he wears.)

Third most common question: 

Can I touch it?
(Answer: Really, honestly, it’s just a piece of metal. It is not imbued with magical properties. I promise. Otherwise, I’d be alohomora and wingardium leviosa-ing stuff all over the place.)
Fourth most common question:
Are you in the military/Army?
(Answer: HECK NO. Does it look like I could possibly, possibly, possibly be in the military? I’m a complete wimp.)
Cutest comment:
(During the summer I was a vacation Bible school teacher, and John’s dogtag was a source of endless entertainment. I’m assuming this is because it is shiny and big.) The following is the cutest exchange about the dogtag I’ve had thus far:
Tiny, little girl (pointing to my necklace ) : What’s that?
Me: It’s a necklace.
Tiny, little girl (grabs it and examines it): It’s not a necklace; it’s ugly!
(Answer: How can you argue with that? Yeah, it is pretty ugly. It definitely does not go with many outfits. Mostly just the ones with camo.)

Most obnoxious comment:

(Paraphrased because I was so taken aback.) You know dogtags don’t work when the IEDs explode. Soldiers are in so many parts, it doesn’t work for identification.

(Answer: Here’s a fun fact–this isn’t funny. In fact, it ruined the night. I truly think the person who said this thought it would make me laugh. It didn’t and I don’t think I have to explain why. I’m going to chalk this up to the person’s misplaced sense of humor, feeling awkward about John’s deployment, and consumption of a lot of booze.)Weirdest comment:

In all fairness, this was asked by one of my students who is goofy and continually just a little bit “off.”
Are you gonna cheat on him?

(Answer I Said in My Head: Are you stupid?)Comment that made me cry my eyes out like the wuss I am: 

A few weeks ago, two Marines were recruiting at my school. I just happened to be in the hallway when they were hopelessly lost and looking for a room number. At the end of giving them directions, one of the Marines asked me if I had someone in my family serving the military.
Me: My fiance’s in Afghanistan right now.
Marine: Well, thank you for his service. And thank you for yours.

(Answer: Say something dumb and stunned like, “Um, okay. Sure. No problem.” And then walk away as quickly as possible and try to keep it together.)Funny how a small piece of metal can be a hub of conversation! There’s still so much of the deployment to go, so I’m sure there will be (at the very least) a Dogtags: Part 2 post.

PS. If you liked this post, you might like Saying Goodbye + 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship During Deployment.

photo credit: Burp Hammie via photopin cc

13 Responses

  1. I agree with all your reasons of why you wear his dogtags. I do the same for my fiance’! The feeling of being closer to him while wearing them is 100% true. I don’t think people could really understand unless they go through it themselves. I wear my fiance’s tags EVERY SINGLE DAY because I love him, support him, and love the feeling of having him there close to my heart (even if it’s just symbolism at work). The number 1 comment I always get is “Are you in the military.” I just reply “Nope, my fiance’ is” with a big smile on my face! =]

  2. That’s actually my REAL answer… not the answer in my head. And then I talk about John whether or not they want to hear about him. :-) I’m sure you do the exact same thing!

  3. These are my exact reasons for wearing his dog tags! He put them on me on our first anniversary and I rarely take them off since we’re LDR when not dealing with deployment.

  4. Likewise, Ashley!! John gave me his dogtags a month or so before he left, but I didn’t put them on until he was out of the country. I plan on taking them off when he’s home for R&R, and then forever (or, realistically, until he ships out again) when he’s done with his deployment. I can’t wait!!

  5. I honestly can’t believe someone said that horrible comment to you. What is wrong with people???!!
    I love your reasons for wearing them and I think it makes perfect sense!!
    Loved this post!!

  6. I haven’t taken my husband’s dogtags off since he left (except for once when I absolutely had to) but I plan on keeping them on until he returns. At first I thought I was weird for having him get me a pair (I used to wear them only at work) but now I see it is something that helps them feel a little closer, even if it is just a mind thing. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that there is something to having the same thing on that he has on way over there.

  7. I don’t think I’ve found anything more perfect. I wear my husbands ALL the time no matter what because I can feel like to me, (he knows i wear them) its a good luck charm keeping him safe. And so many people have asked me why and its so hard to explain because they dont know. I’ve even had people try to tell me i cant wear them. I told them yes i can and turned away before i said something bad. I’m glad to see i’m not the only one with questions being asked of me.

    1. I agree– it’s totally about your preference and what helps the both of you get through a tough time.

  8. My husband gave me a pair of his dog tags while we were dating. It was a very special gift, almost like a promise ring to us. He bought purple silencers to go on them because that’s my favorite color. Now, I wear them on days when I’m really missing him. Like you said, it makes him feel just a tiny bit closer. I don’t care what anyone says. He’s OK with me wearing them. So I’ll wear them if I want. Usually people ask about them, and thankfully so far no one has said anything rude or mean about it.

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  10. Maybe this is a silly question, but I’m still new to this military life… Is it ok to wear them in public if you’re not a service member? My Soldier gave me his a few weeks ago and I’ve been wearing them every night and while at home, but haven’t worn them in public because I didn’t know if that was frowned upon. From your post, it sounds like it’s ok to wear them in public but I won’t get stopped by someone if I’m wearing them on base? Any suggestions and advice will help, thank you!

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