Military Ritual – Blood Stripes

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 29
Occupation: Treasury Dept., ex-military
Residence: Austin, Texas
Date of Performance/Collection: April 2011
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Military – Marine Corps – Promotion Ritual/Ceremony/Tradition

“In the Marines, blood stripes are red stripes you get when you are promoted to Corporal as an NCO. At the same time, when people congratulate you they shake your hand and hit your rank insignia, which can make you bleed because the back of the insignia hasn’t been put on yet… so it goes along with the blood stripes. And they say that the blood stripes are from the Mexican American war in memory of those lost in battle. I think they go together because, in a way, when they hit you, you’re feeling the pain and blood of the Marines that were lost in the Mexican American War… so it’s like a connection to them, to the past.”

I agree with the informant’s analysis of this ritual/tradition. It seems likely that in an organization so reliant on camaraderie, like the military, this connection to the past would be important. According to the informant, the Marines that fought in the Mexican American war were considered especially courageous. By associating themselves with these past Marines, the new Marines are allying themselves with ideals of courage, while paying a sort of homage to their history. Traditions such as this seem to be formative when it comes to identity, and the military places much importance on a sense of common identity among service members. In effect, this ceremony where they are hit on their insignia ties them to their fellow Marines that are being promoted at the same time, but also to the Marines of the past, creating a camaraderie and commonality that spans generations of Marines.