There's a new insignia showing up on the sleeves of a small group of military men, but instead of denoting rank, it advertises their love for a cartoon inspired by the girlish 1980s plastic toy called "My Little Pony."
So-called "Bronies," adult men who are fans of the TV show "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic," have apparently been around at least since 2010, when the Hasbro-owned cartoon first aired. Within their ranks are "Military Bronies," service members from all branches of the military who share their love of the show and wear the "cutie mark" -- a Rainbow Dash patch on their uniforms, Army Times first reported.
The bond may seem strange for men entrusted with defending their nation, but the Military Bronies' Facebook page has more than 1,500 “likes” and has inspired websites like FOB Equestria, where members proudly display their patches and profess their love for a show aimed at children. In a post to the Facebook page, a self-described serviceman who gave his name, but no branch or rank said fellow Bronies have made a soldier out of him.
"You, the bronies, have taught me that there are things and people worth protecting; things bigger and more important than myself," write Ken "Derpy" Catlin. "All because I decided to watch some "gay" little show about 6 ponies. Again, as I have said before, I cannot thank you, the MLP team, or the ponies themselves enough for what they have done for me, and this world."
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Within the larger group, military Bronies hold a place of honor. At a recent convention dubbed "BronyCon 2012" in Secaucus, N.J., civilian Bronies cheered wildly when they spied brethren in uniform, according to the website BuzzFeed.
“We barely made it up to the top steps and everyone outside was cheering for us," a National Guardsman identified as Darius told the site. "I didn’t know they were cheering for us, I thought one of the other guys had showed up, I thought it was [voice of the character "Discord"] John de Lancie or Lauren Faust. I started clapping because I figured if everyone else was clapping I’d do it too. Then my friend was like, ‘no dude, they’re clapping for us.’”
Not everyone gets it. A commenter on a Military Times forum was just one of many who questioned why grown men would feel such allegiance to a kids' cartoon.
“I can think of at least four violations here: wearing a duty uniform while supposedly off-duty or at an unauthorized location;
wearing an official Army uniform to an event that I guarantee the Army is not officially involved with; wearing a non-sanctioned patch on the uniform in place of current unit patch; and attending a My Little Pony convention.”
The show airs on Hub, a pay TV channel owned by Hasbro. Knowing the "My Little Pony" franchise has long been associated with little girls, the producers have sought to reel in males with more unisex storylines. The show stars Twilight Sparkle, a unicorn pony and five other ponies who are guided through ponyville by Princess Celestia.
As for the brass, asked if she had ever heard of the phenomenon of Military Bronies, a Pentagon spokeswoman said "I'm unaware of the concept. But when told about Rainbow Dash patches finding their way onto uniforms, the spokeswoman told FoxNews.com there could be a problem.
“Please note, non-authorized, non-military patches are not authorized for wear on military uniforms,” she said.