Created By: Redneck Rocker on August 1, 2009 Last Edited By: Worldmaker on February 5, 2011
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Dad The Veteran

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Dad! No one wants to hear your stupid Vietnam stories!
-- Radio commercial, Grand Theft Auto III

Quite often, especially in shows set in the 50's and 60;s, the father figure will be a veteran. Whether he's a Standard '50s Father or an Overprotective Dad, he's capable of being a real hardcase in the right circumstances. Yes, even the Dads who appear to be nothing but creampuff can be tough guys when they need to be.

Often this is pulled in situations where a younger (almost always male) character needs to be browbeaten or intimidated. Whether the dad was merely a marine, or the equivalent of FOXHOUND, at some point, they'll bring it up in a not-so-casual way when they need to remind the younger character that they aren't as soft and yielding as they seem to be.

This effect can also happen if Dad used to be a cop, or a government agent of some sort. In comedies, it often turns out that yeah, Dad was in the Army... but he was a cook, or a file clerk, or a mechanic, or had some other less than intimidating job.


Examples:

Film
  • In Secondhand Lions during Hub McCann's Crowning Badass Speech of Asskicking, when he single-handedly takes down the greasers who invade the diner, he rather pointedly mentions that he is a veteran:
    Hub McCann: "I'm Hub McCann. I've fought in two World Wars and countless smaller ones on three continents. I led thousands of men into battle with everything from horses and swords to artillery and tanks. I've seen the headwaters of the Nile, and tribes of natives no white man had ever seen before. I've won and lost a dozen fortunes, killed many men, and loved only one woman with a passion a flea like you could never begin to understand. That's who I am. NOW, GO HOME, BOY!"

Live-Action TV
  • Howard Cunningham from Happy Days is a perfect example of a kindly, wise Standard '50s Father. But when he needed to be, he could remind his children (and he even reminded the Fonz at one point) that he'd been an infantryman during the war, and could still throw down if he needed to. It was later revealed that he had been a file clerk, and not an infantryman.


Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • August 1, 2009
    nurfle!
    Not too long ago, this was probably a Justified Trope what with WWII, Korea and Vietnam...
  • August 1, 2009
    BrainSewage
    Nikki's dad from Malcolm in the Middle.
  • August 1, 2009
    Maxmordon
    I think this would encircle more of a "Everyone Grew Up in the 50's" type of trope.
  • August 1, 2009
    wanderlustwarrior
    ..."just a marine?"
  • August 1, 2009
    Redneck Rocker
    That's not what I meant, and you know it, wanderlust. I simply meant that the individual brings the topic up in conversation about as subtly as a music video from India.
  • August 1, 2009
    Sackett
    Well, back when there was a draft this would have been Truth In Television.
  • August 2, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    If not a character's dad, then most probably their grandfather.
  • August 2, 2009
    jason taylor
    It wasn't so long ago when everyone's dad WAS once a soldier. Conscription just ended in the 80's or so didn't it?
  • August 2, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Parodied in Seinfeld when Frank Costanza told a war story about being in the military...as a cook.
  • August 2, 2009
    random surfer
    @jason taylor: 1973, but males turning 18 still have to register with Selective Service so in case there is a draft again They know where to find you.
  • August 3, 2009
    Pinata
    Bill Engvall did this to his daughter's prom date on The Bill Engvall Show, if i remember correctly.
  • August 3, 2009
    aurora369
    Still Truth In Television in Russia, which still has conscription.
  • August 3, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    @jason: The majority of Western countries don't have conscription of any sort, so it's not as common as you might assume.
  • August 3, 2009
    LarryD
    Of course, the point of mentioning military service (real or not) is to impress on the date that "I can take you apart if I want, so treat my daughter well".
  • February 1, 2011
    youngcosette
    This type of intimidation works if the dad is a cop as well.
  • February 1, 2011
    AFP
    To continue with the sidebar conversation, I don't think you have to register with the Selective Service, but if you don't register, you are not eligible for a variety of benefits, including financial aid for higher education.
  • February 1, 2011
    Koveras
    Veteran Dad can be used for other purposes in the story, by the way. Case in point: In World In Conflict, Captain Bannon's step-dad (a comrade in arms of his late actual father) is a retired veteran who constantly belitters Bannon for not being a good enough soldier, even in situations where Bannon couldn't do anything.
  • February 1, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Nick's dad from Freaks And Geeks.
  • February 1, 2011
    tirgo
    countless examples from a ton of sitcoms and the like. i have an example, juno's dad in juno is said to be a war vet (and j jonah jameson)
  • February 1, 2011
    randomsurfer
    The Happy Days one is a subversion: as I recall whenever he brought up the fact that he served in WWII it's always mentioned by someone else that he was a cook.
  • February 1, 2011
    Worldmaker
    Actually I think Howard Cunningham turned out to be a file-clerk...
  • February 1, 2011
    PaleHorse87
    • On Everybody Loves Raymond Ray's father Frank was a veteran. He served in Korea (and possibly WWII?) and tends to bring it up when he's trying to get away with something.
  • February 1, 2011
    foxley
    The Dad in The Wonder Years was a vetran of the Korean War. It came up fairly frequently (including as a justification for why he didn't need to stop and ask for directions).
  • February 1, 2011
    KZN02
    See also Military Brat?
  • February 1, 2011
    Premonition_45
    Red Forman on That Seventies Show.
  • February 1, 2011
    Cuchulainn
    Dad! No one wants to hear your stupid Vietnam stories!
    -- Radio commercial, Grand Theft Auto III
  • February 3, 2011
    spikebrennan
    Mad Men
  • February 4, 2011
    Worldmaker
    What about Mad Men?

    Anyone else hate it when someone decides to contribute an "example" consisting of only the name of a work, as if that tells us at all how that's an example?
  • February 4, 2011
    callsignecho
    I've seen quite a few female characters given a Veteran Dad. Usually it's an excuse for why she's tough and independent but it can also be a Freudian Excuse if he was a martinet.

    • Smallville: His military service so defines Lois Lane's father, that even she refers to him only as "The General."
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