Beards are alright; you’ll notice I have one in almost every picture or at the very least a little scruff. Lord knows I hate shaving (which is, mostly, why I have one) and my wife says I look like a scary man-child with a shaved face. Beards are really cool when you’re in the military, mostly because you generally have to shave daily (which sucks.)
Over the course of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), the beard became business attire for Special Operations, pioneered by the Green Berets and other less conventional ground elements to help them mesh better with the local culture — unconventional warfare (UW) and foreign internal defense (FID) stuff. Then the beard slowly trickled down into Special Operations units that had less of a need, but beards are cool so screw it.
Soon everybody in the military wanted a beard because that’s what the cool kids were rocking. Now they’ve become some weird fashion statement for veterans and hipsters alike. Maybe they should be used to represent time in service or something, like the guy in the illustration? The longer you’ve been in, the longer the beard you get to have.