Between Order and Execution: A Phenomenological Approach to the Role of Relationships in Military Culture

December, 2020

This article explores the concept of military culture, in a bid to describe and define it. The article takes into consideration how this culture factors into the construct of veteran identity and in the relationships that develop between veterans and civilians.


Despite the growing recognition that military identity and veteran identity are interrelated, there is scant literature that seeks to describe or define military culture—perhaps an indication of the degree to which veterans and civilians alike take military culture for granted as a factor in veteran identity. One important factor in veteran identity is relationship: relationships amongst veterans and between veterans and civilians. In the latter case, trust is often wanting, and that lack of trust seems to be connected to the experience of military service. To explore a possible connection between military culture and veteran experience, in-depth interviews were conducted with a diverse group of veterans to develop an understanding of the phenomenon of relationship, or relationality, within military service. Close attention was paid to the daily routines and rhythms of military life. Veterans were given wide latitude to discuss both the positive and negative relationships that they regarded as key to their military experience. The results, presented here as case studies, suggest that relationships of trust in military service often develop out of routine training experiences and are grounded in unique military expectations regarding the public performance of common skills. This phenomenological study is a first step in developing a more comprehensive understanding of the many ways that military experiences may become veteran expectations with respect to relational ideas such as trust.

Full Reference

Hoffman, M. (2020). Between Order and Execution: A Phenomenological Approach to the Role of Relationships in Military Culture. Journal of Veterans Studies, 6(3), 72–83. DOI:

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