Quite often, especially in shows set in The '50s and The '60s, 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, and he bases it all on his years of military service.
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.
Quite a few female characters are given a Veteran Dad as an excuse for why she's tough and independent, but it can also be a Freudian Excuse if he was a tyrannical martinet who lorded over his family with an iron hand. Sometimes this allows female characters to have access to unusual skills or assets, on the assumption that senior military officers use their aviation regiments as their kid's private chauffeurs.
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.
This was a Justified Trope not too long ago for American families, given the almost back-to-back nature of World War I, World War II, The Korean War, and The Vietnam War. Sometimes a fictitious Great Offscreen War is used when the parental characters would have been too young to have participated in any of the aforementioned wars, depending on the current Present Day. Given the ongoing War on Terror, one can expect this trope to come back into prominence. It shows up quite often when the plotline involves The Generation Gap.
Often coincides with Military Brat.
- Bill of "Golden Eyes" and Her Hero "Bill" is a decorated veteran of World War I, and he becomes a father at the end of the serial. Interestingly enough, his wifenote enlisted as an ambulance driver, was briefly a prisoner of war, and is also a decorated veteran, making her a Rare Female Example of this trope.
- Jack Drake, father of Tim Drake (Robin III/Red Robin), was formerly in the Army though he rarely brings it up. Tim addresses him as "sir" fairly regularly.
- Star Trek: Early Voyages: Captain Pike's father Josh Pike is a retired admiral who was highly decorated by Starfleet.
- Bait and Switch (STO): Main character Kanril Eleya's father Kanril Torvo and deceased grandfather both fought in the Bajoran Resistance, and though she claims he didn't encourage her to enlist in the Bajoran Militia, it's mentioned that her father taught her some wilderness survival skills and how to shoot.
- Much of The Translation in Blood is told from the Mom the Veteran's perspective as she watches her daughter, Commander Shepard, grow up and become a decorated officer in her own right.
- In the lore of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic blog The Royal Sketchbook, Luna and Celestia's father was an ex-soldier who when retired became a blacksmith.
- Shaggy The Handler: Fred, Daphne, and Velma all have fathers who are veterans (likely WWII veterans). Their experience with their fathers helps them understand why Shaggy won't talk about his past in Vietnam.
- An Autumn Afternoon: Shuhei was a captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy. He runs into one of his former subordinates and joins him for a drink.
- The step-dad in Boyhood. At one point, Olivia marries Jim, who has just come off of tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In his initial scenes, he comes off as responsible and driven, reciting his experiences in a down-to-earth way while revealing that no one in his platoon lost a life during the time he was in the service. However, it's hinted that his time in combat had a greater effect on him than he'd been willing to admit, as he turns to drinking later on in the film, and repeatedly reprimands Mason whenever he perceives the latter as slacking in his life decisions.
- In Juno, Juno's dad blatantly states that he's a war veteran. The precise war is never quite pinned down. He is more proud of his life's true purpose, heating and air conditing. He subverts the tyrannical aspect of this as he is very close to Juno and been there for her far more than her absentee mother has been.
- In Pacific Rim, both Stacker Pentecost and Hercules Hansen have served in the military for nearly two decades. Prior to K-Day and the Kaiju invasion, Stacker had served in the British Royal Air Force with his sister, Luna, while Herc was already enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. After that, they joined the Pan Pacific Defense Corps and eventually became the longest serving (and surviving) Jaeger pilots. By the time of the film, Stacker is the Marshal of the PPDC and Hong Kong Shatterdome; Herc still pilots Striker Eureka alongside his young son, Chuck.
- Patton: The final line in Patton's speech to his solders at the opening of the film alludes to this.
"Now, there's one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home. And you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now when youre sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you: "What did you do in the great World War II?" You won't have to say, "Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana."
- 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:
Greaser Punk: "Who the hell are you, old man?"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!"
- Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music served in WWI and was decorated for his actions. He runs his house like a military camp as a result, but Maria gets him to loosen up. Then the Anschluss happens and Nazi Germany tries to reactivate his commission. The von Trapps flee to Switzerland instead.note
- Played with in War Horse, where it isn't quite the trope it'd be in a post-Great War setting. Mr. Narracott is shown as having fought in the Boer War, and it's hardened him somewhat, but not in a positive sense. He refuses to talk about what he did or even acknowledge his medals and regimental pennant. His wife explains the situation to Albert, his gentle and somewhat simple-minded son, but it doesn't keep him from attempting to enlist in World War One at the first opportunity.
- Wood from Dragoncharm has one, after a fashion. Although Barker isn't an army dragon he's a dedicated activist in the run-up to the war between the Naturals and the Charmed.
- Played with in William Beamon's novel The Sunshine State. Teenage Darryl is warned by his girlfriend Sandra's father that "he'd been in the Army during the war" (the war in question being the Vietnam War) and that if Darryl "got fresh", dad might have to hurt the boy. Later when he's alone with her, he jokes about the warning, theorizing that her dad (described as "round, well-padded, balding, and genial" earlier in the novel by Darryl himself) had probably been a cook or a file clerk. She hastily corrects him:
"Who dad?" she asked. "No, he was an Army ranger. He'd be dropped behind enemy lines to rescue prisoners of war and stuff. He knows how to kill people about a dozen ways with his bare hands. I saw him beat up a guy who was trying to break into our car outside of the movie theater with a rolled up magazine. You know... special forces kinda stuff."
- John Clark, a character who makes multiple appearances in Tom Clancy's books, is a Vietnam veteran, a former Punisher-style vigilante, and leader of an elite anti-terrorist unit. He's also a Papa Bear to his three daughters. One of them related a story about he frightened off-for good- a boyfriend whom he found less-than-acceptable just by giving him a death glare.
- In A Brother's Price, all of the Whistler grandmothers had been common line soldiers, descended from soldiers, blacklisted for treason, trained as thieves, and turning their hands to becoming spies. They passed this training down to their daughters, who passed it down to their daughters. The granddaughters all have military discipline, on down to the little ones, and they are well able to defend their youngest and their menfolk. Thanks to the Whistler grandfather and his odd ideas, said menfolk are also somewhat trained. Jerin Whistler benefits from this. He's a Non-Action Guy like every male in the setting, but a Spirited Young Gentleman.
- Park's father from Eleanor & Park served in the Korean War, and is suitably gruff and aloof.
- In Reunion'', the Jewish protagonist's father, a decorated WWI veteran, responds to a Nazi goon putting up boycott posters on their shop by putting on his uniform and all his medals and standing at attention next to the goon without saying a word. The Nazi gives up and leaves in shame.
- The Village Tales series is, after all, set in Wiltshire. Home of the British Army. It's stuffed full of more-or-less Retired Badass sorts. (One local curate won the Military Cross, and can glare wrongdoers into repentance; the local duke is a decorated former Intelligence Corps officer you don't want to cross; the local Headmaster, whose school is markedly free of discipline issues, ahem, was a subaltern of 1 PARA; the landlord of the pub, where there is never a Bar Brawl for some reason, served in the Falklands; the only social housing in the district was built for retired ''Gurkhas''....) Good luck finding a father or father figure of the right age who didn't serve in HM Forces.
- In December Stillness Kelly's father is revealed to be a Vietnam Veteran, contrasting with Mr. Weems as he has adapted to life after the war much better than the other.
- For Kris Longknife, it's Great-Granddad the Veteran, as well as Great-Grandma: her father's a politician and her grandfather a Fiction 500 CEO, but all three of her surviving great-grandparents are veterans of the Iteeche War and subsequent human-on-human unification wars, and one more died in action. One of them, Terrence "Trouble" Tordon, helped Kris out of a troubled childhood and got her into orbital skiff racing as a teenager, and Kris eventually defied her parents and followed the greats into the Space Navy.
- A Dog's Way Home: Lucas' mother Terri is a war veteran. Due to her traumas, she neglected him in his childhood. She also became dependent on alcohol and drugs, which she still deals with years after being clean. Lucas doesn't care to think about the past but it troubles his mother deeply.
- Paula's father in Ugly Memories attended VMI (a real-life military college in Virginia). The audience never finds out if he's a veteran of an actual war or not. Still, his behavior - especially the profanity-filled lecture he gives his daughter - fits this character type.
- Actor Gerald McRaney often played Vietnam War veterans or other military character; with the example best fitting this trope being his role on Touched by an Angel spinoff Promised Land as Vietnam veteran Russell Greene.
- He also played the lead in Major Dad, where he was a mustang, former enlisted (in Vietnam) who became an officer, serving during Desert Storm.
- On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Mary's father is a WWII veteran. He bores everyone except Sally with his war stories. Hilarity Ensues when he and Sally decide to hook up (note he's still married).
- On 30 Rock, Liz's father was stationed at Pearl Harbor... during the Korean War.
- Archie Bunker from All in the Family fought in Italy during "The Big War" in the army air corps, and he loves to bring it up.
- With shades of Phony Veteran - he was in charge of the motor pool.
- Blue Bloods: All three generations of Reagan men served overseas in the Marines. All three are also fathers. Danny served in Iraq, specifically Fallujah, and was at one point the Sole Survivor of his unit. His father, Frank, served in Vietnam. 'His father, Henry, served in Korea, though a throwaway line hints he may have previously served in the Pacific Theatre of WWII.
- On The Cosby Show Cliff Huxtable served in the Navy.
- Doctor Who: In "The Idiot's Lantern", Eddie Connolly is zealously proud of his service in World War II. However, he's also an abusive jerkass to his wife and son.
- In Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray's father Frank was a veteran. He served in Korea and tends to bring it up when he's trying to get away with something.
- Martin from Frasier was both a Korean war veteran and a retired homicide detective. This didn't come up that much in the Retired Badass way, but was simply another facet of Martin's generally masculine persona in (comedic) comparison to his more effete sons Frasier and Niles.
- Freaks and Geeks is set and made in a time when conscription was a recent memory.
- Harold Weir served in the Korean War, and Mr. Andopolis was in the Air Force.
- A non-parental example: Mr. Kowchevski (Lindsay's grumpy and hard nosed math teacher) served in Vietnam.
- 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 in the army during "the war" (it is assumed he's talking about World War II), and could still throw down if he needed to. It was later revealed that he had been a file clerk or a cook, depending on which episode you're watching.
- Home Improvement, Jill Taylor's father is a gruff war veteran who fought in World War II and the Korean War.
- On It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Frank tries to come across as this, back when he still thought he was Dennis and Dee's dad, mentioning the time he spent in Vietnam. Dee points out that Frank went to Vietnam as a civilian, in The '90s, to open a sweat shop.
- In JAG, Harmon Rabb's dad was naval aviator who was MIA in The Vietnam War. Also the series' Team Dad, Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden, served as a Navy SEAL in the same war. Sturgis Turner's father, Chaplin Turner, also served in Vietnam.
- On Justified Arlo Givens and Bo Crowder served together in Vietnam. Arlo came back as a Shell-Shocked Veteran which turned him into a fairly unstable drunk who beat his wife and son. Raylan Givens acknowledges his father's experiences during the war but considers it no excuse for the terrible things Arlo has done. Bo's war service is not discussed much on the show but we later find out that during the war he made an important contact that later catapulted him into becoming the criminal kingpin of Harlan County.
- Played with in Mad Men. Technically, Don is a Korean veteran, and he has a Purple Heart, but the more pertinent fact about his service is that he caused the accident that wounded him and killed his commanding officer, then stole the dead man's identity and used it to desert and start his post-war life (his CO was due to be discharged). Naturally he feels less than pure unadulterated pride when he's asked to stand up along with other veterans at a Memorial Day event and sees his kids beaming and applauding. Later, Betty's father comes to live with them and brings his grandson a box full of his WWI memorabilia, including a helmet belonging to a German he's pretty sure he killed. Don is disturbed and tells him not to put romantic ideas about war into Bobby's head. In Don's other life at the office, his best friend Roger Sterling never misses a chance to brag about his WWII service—he served in the Navy in the Pacific Theater—particularly to young Smug Snake Pete Campbell. It gave him a virulent hatred of the Japanese that seriously threatens a deal with Honda at one point.
- In The Monkees episode "The Chaperone", Davy tries to date the daughter of a military man, but has a difficult time finding time alone with her because he runs his household like a barracks.
- Jay Pritchett on Modern Family served in Vietnam. In an early episode, he talks about his job in the army handling explosives. Later episodes, though, say that he was in the navy.
- The Red Green Show once featured an advice segment for what to do if there was no war when you were the right age, yet people still expect a war story.
Red: Oh yeah, I was in the war. The big one. The Gasoline Price War of '69
- Parodied when Frank Costanza told a war story about being in the military during the Korean War... as a cook. It was played in full-blown Mundane Made Awesome flashback.
- Played straight with Elaine's father, although he only appeared in one episode.
- Smallville: His military service so defines Lois Lane's father that even she refers to him only as "The General".
- Stargate SG-1: Major General Jacob Carter was this for main cast member Samantha Carter, in a double-edged manner. While we don't know too much about her upbringing, we know that he was both an influence on her joining the Air Force herself, and is estranged from her brother due to being away on deployment when their mother passed away.
- In Supernatural, John Winchester was a Marine Corporal in Vietnam, home again some time in his early twenties to marry his sweetheart. We know him as the hard-bitten, driven Crusading Widower who raised his two sons in a kind of traveling boot camp, so it's quite a shocker when Time Travel in season four reveals that he came back from the war still a cheerful, outgoing young fellow. Whose idea of a date was apparently going out for milkshakes.* The Marines may have given him the tools to kick ass with, but the Blood Knight The Stoic hunter thing was all him and his vendetta.
- Red Forman on That '70s Show is a vetaran of both World War II and The Korean War. And he likes to bring it up.
- In one episode, due to rising gas prices, he buys a small, economical Japanese car. His pride in his military service clearly took a back to his habit of stretching his dollars as far as possible. "The last time I was that close to something made in Japan, it was shooting at me."
- In True Detective, Rust Cohle's single father was a hard-bitten Vietnam veteran.
- The Dad in The Wonder Years was a veteran 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).
- Queensrÿche's critically-acclaimed record American Soldier was borne out of singer Geoff Tate's conversations with his father about his experiences serving in the military in Korea and Vietnam.
- The song "What Did You In The War, Dad" by Sonata Arctica is about the viewpoint character asking the titular question from his father, who seems to possibly suffer from PTSD. To quote the opening lines of the song:
Dad, what did you do in the war?
Something to answer for?
You say too young I am to know...
- The music video of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" featured Mark Metcalf essentially playing Neidermeyer-turned-father, who runs his house like a disciplined army, and carried an M16, and is just disgusted at his worthless, weak son's choice to play that sick, twisted, electric TWANGER (a guitar).
- 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.
- The male Sole Survivor from Fallout 4 is a veteran of the Sino-American war, who is married to a lawyer with a year-old son named Shaun. Then the bombs start falling.
- BioShock Infinite has Comstock, the main villain, father of Elizabeth, and veteran of both the Battle of Wounded Knee and the Boxer Rebellion. Also Booker, the main character who lost his daughter a long time ago and whom also fought at Wounded Knee. Then again, Comstock and Booker are just alternate-universe versions of each other, and technically, Elizabeth is Booker's child (Comstock had long been rendered infertile) whom Comstock stole, but the trope applies nonetheless.
- A parody of the page image is also seen in the game, replacing the words "the Great War" with "Siege of Columbia".
- Mass Effect:
- One of the origin stories for Commander Shepard in Mass Effect has him/her as the child of a Systems Alliance military officer, Hannah Shepard, who is promoted to rear admiral in Mass Effect 3. She's a minor character and never appears on-screen.
- In Mass Effect: Andromeda, though, the Ryder twins' father Alec is a huge presence in the game despite dying in the prologue. Alec Ryder served in the first mass relay exploration missions as well as seeing combat against the turians in the First Contact War as an N7 special forces operator, before being dishonorably discharged for his part in illegal AI research.
- King of the Hill has Hank's dad, Cotton. He frequently abuses his status as a veteran, and remains a misogynistic, abusive, and downright unpleasant wanker to his death at the hands of... shrimp allergies.
- The Simpsons: Abe Simpson fits this trope, particularly in flashbacks to his younger days. Now, as an old man, he's more of a Shell-Shocked Veteran.
- In Hey Arnold!, Gerald was raised on the idea his father, a paper pusher, was a war hero. Turns out he was a clerk in an in-country office during Vietnam. That said, he did save a man's life when he found a wounded soldier in the field on a trip and saved his life using the files he was transporting as an emergency med kit.
- Louie's dad in Life with Louie was very quick to remind everyone within earshot he served in the second world war, though his story changed with every telling. For example, he was apparently at both Omaha Beach AND Iwo Jima. The truth does come out eventually. It turns out he served in the army as a cook, with the nickname "Keister."
- Played for Laughs in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy where Billy's idiot dad Harold is listed as an "Ex-Navy Seal" during a talk-show segment.
- On Daria, Jake has a Hilariously Abusive Childhood about his father, "Mad Dog" Morgendorffer, and his nasty parenting techniques. It culminated in Jake spending his teen years in an equally-unpleasant military school, so he has a smidge of this trope himself.
- Frank Murphy from F is for Family is both a veteran of the Korean War, and a father of three children. In spite of his Hair-Trigger Temper and constant profanity, he tends to be a pushover with his kids.
- Weirdly, dramatically and awkwardly inverted in the case of The Berlin Republic which has a generation (between the WW 2 generation and the War On Terror generation) that could not have conceivably served in any war under German command. They might regale their kids stories of The Bund or NVA, but they were both peacetime armies preparing for a war that never came. However, while the new Bundeswehr is an all volunteer army since the 2010s, it is also an army involved in actual shooting war in Kosovo and Afghanistan since 1999 and 2001 respectively. So there have been newspaper specials about adult sons (and in some cases daughters) talking to their peacetime dads about war and being a veteran.