By Military Connection Staff Writer Joe Silva.
Recently, I was researching U.S. military pride, and the attitudes towards military pride of those who have served. I have scanned through numerous online forums and asked dozens of Veterans to weigh in. I found an overwhelming number of U.S. military Veterans’ responses arguing that wearing earned ribbons and medals, even when worn in a manner that shows no disrespect to their branch of service or the award, is still popularly considered “inappropriate.”
Many Veterans have likened discharged Veterans wearing their medals to the old-world aristocrats who attempted to exert self-importance through fashion. But when a generation of Americans has spent more than twelve years fighting, supporting the efforts of two wars, there are many decorated Veterans face this dilemma. Should they leave their military pride packed away in closets, shadow boxes and underwear drawers, just because wearing their awards is considered… wrong?
First and foremost, it is legal to wear medals and ribbons. In fact, the DOD and the VA have specifically asked Veterans to show their military pride by wearing medals and ribbons on patriotic holidays, including Memorial Day, Veterans Day and the Fourth of July. The VA even specifies that they shouldn’t be just for parades and functions, but worn everywhere.
Furthermore, according to DOD Instruction 1334.01, section 3.2 from October 26, 2005, honorably discharged Veterans can wear their entire uniform for national holidays, events that are military in nature, and weddings.
There are regulations for military members who wish to wear their ribbons and medals with civilian attire. Each branch has specific rules. But in general, mini medals are permissible for formal occasions, and replica ribbons worn as lapel pins can be worn on sport coats.
Wanting to follow the rules, while not knowing what they are, is a major reason why Veterans don’t wear their awards. But Veterans should be made aware that military uniform regulations no longer apply to people who have completed their enlistment. So basically, the awards and medals that they have earned are theirs to do with as they choose. That is why many older Vets can be seen wearing ribbon racks and medals on their ball caps. The purpose of wearing medals is to celebrate and respect your country, your branch of service and your award. But apparently, this is still an unpopular notion.
I would like to see a trend start where Veterans proudly display their decorations on national holidays and civilian formal events. Veterans displaying their awards shouldn’t be seen as selfish attention seekers, but rather, as drawing attention to military service and their branch of service. If someone congratulates or thanks that Veteran for their service, GOOD… they earned it.
I found another reason why American military Veterans don’t wear their awards is that they don’t feel that their awards are worth much, or that someone else with more decorations will make them look insignificant.
While I only served five years of active duty, I deployed three times. I was never in active combat. But I am proud of my service and consider it among my greatest achievements. I choose to wear my medals, knowing the inevitability that someone has more medals of higher stature than mine. When that happens, I will shake my comrade’s hand and thank that person for their service. But no one can convince me that displaying military pride is inappropriate. I chose to serve my country, and my country issued me my medals. I will wear my medals with pride, and I challenge my fellow Veterans to do the same.