Veteran Military Rank Reference

If I’m formally referring to a veteran lance corporal from the marines, do I refer to him as “Lance Corporal John Smith” or “Veteran Lance Corporal John Smith” or “John Smith” or something else? What’s the proper etiquette?

As a former one of those, I’d suggest “Corporal.” While not a Corpotal, per se, usage is similar as referring to a Lt. Colonel as “Colonel.”

Curious…in what type of situation/environment would you use such an address?

If by ‘veteran’ you mean a former serviceman, i.e., a civilian who retired or comleted his term and chose not to reenlist, then he is “John Smith, Lance Corp., USMC (Ret.)”

For someone to have retired as a Lance Corporal, he would have been busted.

“Retired” and “Completed his term [but] chose not to reenlist” are two different things with different protocol. Retired service members may be addressed as you state. However, if a person does not actually retire (through years of service or medically) then they are not permitted to use their rank socially. They are simply Mr or Mrs.

As to the OP, the best way for you to phrase your formal address would depend on the circumstance. Also whether your address is to be verbal or written. But, typically, if mentioning the person’s prior service and rank serves no relevant purpose, then it should not be mentioned unless the person actually retired at that rank. You only keep the title if you retire.

Modern Marine Corps convention is to refer to lance corporals only as such in formal settings. Informally they’re called lances or lance coolies. Not very Old Corps of Marines :wink:

As for the address him- the convention is to address someone by the highest rank held. Seeing as lance corporal isn’t all that high I would go with “Former Marine.”

Edit for clarity: Lances corporals are never called just corporals in the modern Marine Corps.

My brother, who served in the Marine Corps, always indicated a bit of disdain for the phrase ‘former Marine.’ In his view, you’re either a Marine or you’re not - I have no idea how prevailing this opinion is.

That seems to be an attitude that cropped up later in my time in the Marine Corps. The one that was disdained when when I was in is Ex-Marine.

I’m no Marine, but I’ve always heard it as once a Marine, always a Marine, even though you may no longer be serving.

The men I’ve worked with who were in the Marine Corps would NOT take kindly to the suggestion that they are no longer Marines. I’ve just referred to them as guys who were in the Marine Corps- it doesn’t imply that they’re no longer Marines, but just that they’re not currently in the Corps.

Call him John.

It would just seem weird to call an ex lance corporal by his rank. He isn’t that anymore. A retired high ranking officer or maybe a Sergeant Major possibly. No one else.

They should just get over it or re enlist. Nothing wrong with former Marine if they are sensitive about the ex part.

Yeah, as others have said, he’d most likely never be addressed as “Corporal”, the main sticking point being that a Corporal is a Non Commissioned officer, while a Lance Corporal is a mere insignificant enlisted grunt.

And the Marines I’ve known have joked about retiring as a Lance, but I’m not entirely sure if it’s ever happened.:smiley:

I have heard that “former Marine” is sometimes acceptable (depends on the Marine), and “Ex-Marine” is reserved only for those who got kicked out and lost the priviledge to be called a Marine.

In any case, Marines take an insane amount of pride in the Corps. I’ve heard it equated to a warrior cult, in contrast to the other branches which merely contain professional military personnel. I want to say that mentality is a product of the late 20th century, as up until WWII the Marines’ primary mission was basically being ship-deployed soldiers, though they did get their “Devil Dog” nickname fighting in WWI.

I’ve never heard a Lance Corporal referred to or addressed as “Corporal.” It’s always been either “Lance Corporal” or “Marine.”

Listen up Devil Dog!


When I was in tech school, our class was a mix of different services, including a Lance Corporal in the Marines. One of the Air Force sergeants asked him what the appropriate way for an NCO to address him (i.e.: “Hey Smith”, or “Hey, Lance Corporal Smith”, or “Hey Marine” or whatever).

The Marine’s response, after a thoughtful pause, was: “You’re an NCO. I’m Enlisted. You call me pretty much whatever you want to call me and I’ll answer.”

Neither could re-enlist; one was in his early 60s, and the other had a medical discharge after he broke several neck vertebrae in training. He had planned on making a career out of the Marine Corps, and I suspect is a little disappointed that he didn’t. He still has the haircut, posture, crisp just-pressed appearance, and that freakish shoe-shine ability though.