Day Set Aside to Honor Those Who Have Served, Sacrificed

Today, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, also known as November 11th, is set aside as Veteran’s Day in America.

The holiday got its start on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War.

Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning in 1919, November 11th became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938.

In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day, and became a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.

While November 11th has long been a day set aside to honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in the armed forces to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy, the way to honor those troops has changed in many ways through the years.

Americans still put out their flags on this holiday. Some towns still hold parades and the banks and post office are still closed.

The honoring of veterans has moved into the nation’s sporting events as well allowing thousands of people to celebrate and remember in mass.

Large American Flags have long beena tradition at sporting events. This past weekend stadiums across the country honored Veterans and America with flags and tributes. One tribute let a sour taste however. Photo R. Anderson
Large American Flags have long been a tradition at sporting events. This past weekend stadiums across the country honored Veterans and America with flags and tributes. One tribute left a sour taste however.
Photo R. Anderson

Watch almost any sporting event over the past weekend and there were displays of patriotism and honoring of the troops as far as the eye could see.

As troops have not always received warm welcomes on the home front, it was especially nice to see how the men and women of the armed services are respected and appreciated for their sacrifice.

Had the honoring of the troops stopped at the pregame ceremonies it would have been the perfect way to say thanks. Unfortunately many teams and in some cases leagues took things a tad too far for my taste.

Many teams added camouflage flourishes to their uniforms as an homage to the troops. These flourishes in many cases included camouflage wristbands and towels as well as camo windbreakers and caps for the coaches.

The “camouflagication” of the sidelines even went so far as putting a camo pattern on the headphones the coaches used to communicate.

While I agree that honoring the troops on Veteran’s Day is a good thing, I often cringe when I see people wearing camouflage without “earning it.”

Now, I know this is hunting season in most of the country, or at least down in Texas. So to be clear I am not trying to take away anyone’s right to wear camouflage and a bright orange vest while channeling their inner Elmer Fudd by going hunting for wabbits, deer, or ducks for that matter.

What I am saying is that over the past few years, I have become more and more sensitive to people wearing the current style of military camouflage when they are out and about in their daily lives.

Flyovers such as this one by the United States Navy's Blue Angels are perfectly good at sporting events. Players wearing camouflage, not so much. Photo R. Anderson
Flyovers such as this one by the United States Navy’s Blue Angels are perfectly good at sporting events. Players wearing camouflage, not so much.
Photo R. Anderson

I have no issues with people wearing old school green camo, since that can usually be determined not to be current issue and looks nothing like what the troops are currently wearing.

I even have a pair of camouflage cargo pants that are extremely comfortable. However, I made sure that I did not buy the “official” pattern when I got them.

I never served in the military. However I have many family members who did, including my late grandfather who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor.

So, this weekend when I saw the various players with camouflage towels, and coaches with camouflage hats and headphones, I questioned once again if that was really the best way to honor the veterans.

By comparison, when sports teams honor police and fire fighters they do not don S.W.A.T. patterns or simulate a firefighter’s bunker gear, thus proving that one can honor our vets and first responders without dressing like them.

For years baseball players have worn camouflage uniforms a couple times a year to honor the troops. So, the trend is certainly not limited to football.

I certainly can be in the minority opinion here. However,  to me the camouflage the troops wear is earned through the sacrifice of making it through basic training and then further tested through battle.

Using a camouflage towel to wipe up sweat between plays on the field just seems wrong to me.

In one of the games I was watching one of the camouflage towels fell to the turf and was stomped on as the players moved to that area of the field.

I know that the towel was not dropped intentionally, but seeing the image of that fallen towel had the same reaction for me as if I was seeing an American flag on the ground.

I guess I look at the camouflage that the troops wear as an extension of the flag that they are sworn to protect.

It would be deemed highly inappropriate for a football player to have a sweat towel that looked like the American flag on the field. In the same way, the camouflage towels just seem equally inappropriate to the point of being offensive.

Again, I know that the intent of the teams and league is completely honorable and meant to pay tribute to the troops but the execution just strikes me as wrong.

Honor the troops with the 100-yard flags that are rolled out for the National Anthem and held by real soldiers in uniform.

Honor the troops by having people stand and cheer when a vet is on Jumbotron screen.

Honor the troops by thanking a veteran for their service.

These are perfectly fine ways to honor the troops without trivializing the uniform.

Again, I may be completely out on a limb here and perhaps the masses see no issues with the camouflage being used by athletes and coaches.

But to me, it screams out like a cheap gesture, and also a way to make money as the camouflage caps are often available for purchase by fans.

Since I have never served in the military, I do not pretend to be able to speak for the troops.

A few years back, I asked an Army reservist their thoughts on the uniform pattern being worn by non-soldiers and they said, “Camo is a uniform worn by the military and should be given the proper respect. Too many have died with the uniform on for it to be the latest fashion trend.”

And again before I get angry replies from hunters, neither I, nor the soldier quoted above, are referring to the camouflage cap you can get at Walmart with your hunting camouflage pattern and favorite team’s logo on it.

I am talking about the use of the current military camouflage pattern and nothing else.

So, on this Veteran’s Day if you see a soldier, make sure you thank them for their service which makes your freedom possible. For that matter, thank a veteran any time you happen to cross paths with them since thanks should not be limited to a single day of the year.

And if you see an athlete wearing camouflage, know that their heart is likely in the right place. But try not to go out and buy the same camouflage cap they are wearing.

There was a price paid, and a sacrifice made every day by thousands of Americans in that pattern. Wearing it comes with a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for your country, and should not be warn to show allegiance to a sports team.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a flag to place on the patio

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson