By Military Connection Staff Writer Joe Silva.
I own and wear a varying ensemble of patriotic, military and Veteran apparel. Wearing my Navy boot camp sweatshirt (Smurfs), or my Guantanamo T-shirt, I feel empowered as I accomplish my civilian missions of grocery shopping and coming to work at MilitaryConnection.com, to write about my wardrobe.
When I was on active duty, it was considered uncool to wear such items. But many of us Veterans want to pay homage to and display the sense of pride and accomplishment that serving in the military has brought us. We wear our “pride gear” to show people who we are, where we have been, and what we have done. But for some reason, I sense a growing stigma attached to wearing such items and showing your patriotism.
I am a recent university graduate, courtesy of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. I also wear a lot of alumni apparel. I went to a very small state school, and knew just about all of my classmates in my English program. A week before graduation, the Veterans Resources Office threw its graduating Vets a beautiful ceremony, honoring us for our achievements. Present at the ceremony was a woman whom I had shared several classes with over the previous five semesters. Although we weren’t friends, we had often talked, and even worked on a couple group projects together. I wondered what she was doing at the ceremony. The school’s Veterans Affairs Coordinator announced her name and stated that she was an Army Vet. I was taken aback that in our two year acquaintanceship, I never heard her mention or saw her wear anything that would hint at military pride.
I have no indication that my former classmate was anything but proud of her service. After all, she attended the ceremony for Veterans. But because I am usually so adept at spotting fellow Veterans, I am puzzled by the fact that her service remained concealed, and that she didn’t reach out to me or other Vets in our classes. Could it be that it has become uncool to call yourself a Veteran?
A Facebook picture of my “Proud Navy Veteran” ball cap was commented on by one of my former shipmates, who said that only “old men” wear such hats. Is it true that Veterans of this generation are not displaying their pride?
Today’s all volunteer force should be proud of their service, proud of their branch, and proud of their country. We stepped up and chose to stand tall in front of our countrymen so that they wouldn’t have to fight. We have sworn oaths of allegiance, and have sweated and bled while keeping these oaths. But apparently, wearing a hat or a T-shirt is going too far.
Current active-duty Military and Veterans should be the beacons of patriotism. If we don’t proudly display our pride in who we are, what we have done and what we stand for, how can we expect others to do the same?
I urge everyone who serves, past and present, to flaunt their pride. Put on your patriotic and military pride apparel and show the world that you are: a Soldier, a Sailor, a Marine, an Airman, a Guardsman, a Veteran, a supporting family member. You are an American. Be proud to be what you are, no matter what anyone else says.