The initials “G.I.” bring a picture of a US soldier for most people They aren’t viewed as glamorous, and usually look like they have just crawled out of the trenches somewhere, but never is there a shred of doubt as to their toughness. The name, American G.I. is synonymous with “American infantryman.” Really, everything American Military was tagged G.I. When soldiers returned from World War II and now other wars or even non-wartime military service are eligible for the benefits of the “G.I.” Bill, including education. In fact, it was often the G.I. Bill that drew young recruits into the service in the first place. Let’s face it, college is expensive, and three years of service seems a small price to pay.
The American soldier was, and for patriots of our day is one of the most loved and respected groups of people in the United States. They even inspired one of most popular toys in the 1960s and 1980s. the G.I. Joe doll, and later, G.I. Jane, inspired by Demi Moore in her movie with the same name. The dolls and the movie brought the G.I. Joe and Jane dolls to a whole new generation of kids.
We all know about the G.I. dolls and soldiers, but do we know what G.I. means? Most of us truly don’t. Many people probably assumed it was something along the lines of “Government Infantry,” “General Infantry,” or perhaps a “Government Issue” label stamped on military rations and equipment. Those are good guesses, but they are also wrong. In fact, “G.I.” stands for “Galvanized Iron.” While that sounds like a tough thing, and maybe that is to say that the soldiers were tough, the reality is that the name comes from something entirely different…and totally not exciting, tough, or even cool. In the early 20th century, believe it or not…military trash cans and buckets were stamped with the initials G.I. It wasn’t because they belonged to the military. but simply because galvanized iron was the material from which the cans and buckets were made. So, during World War I, the initials became a proxy for all things to do with infantry, and the usage stuck. So, I guess we can banish the initials, accept it as all things military, or maybe embrace the term as being the toughest of the tough and the strongest of the strong. I think I like the last one the best.