04 May 2010

A Patchwork of Memories

Household-6 and I spent much of the past weekend attempting to liberate the garage, which has been a cache of clothes, computers, and other clutter for longer than we'd care to admit. On this mission, we intended to donate, recycle, or trash everything that lay in our path.

I encountered a couple foot-lockers-full of old Battle Dress Uniform (B.D.U.) clothes, including some decidedly unsexy Army-brown boxers and briefs. (For the record, this was their original color.) I also found a bunch of long-lost canteens, tent parts, and other stuff that wasn't even worth taking down to the local military surplus store. They were too old to be useful, not old enough to be museum pieces.

Before donating the uniform shirts to the Salvation Army, I spent an hour or so stripping them of name, rank, branch of service, as well as any unit or American flag patches. In my opinion, it's a uniform if there's a flag or "U.S. Army" on it. Taking them off renders it just another set of old fatigues. Maybe it's a little like spiking a cannon, or pouring concrete down the barrel. "De-militarized." Rendered inert.

It was repetitive work. My mind wandered a bit. It struck me that sound of the pocket knife ripping through the stitches was similar to that of distant small-arms fire.

I started focusing attention on the sizes of collars, the locations of buttons, the placement of patches. By comparing and contrasting each uniform, I could re-create exactly when and where each version had been issued and worn. The exercise turned out to be a road-march down memory lane.

I kept one or two uniforms to add to the future Charlie Sherpa Memorial Military Museum. Hanging in my closest, I've got at least one representative sample of each of the Army duty uniforms worn since the late 1980s: the BDU, the Desert Battle Dress Uniform (D.B.D.U.), the Desert Camouflage Uniform (D.C.U.), and the currently worn Army Combat Uniform (A.C.U.) When our unit deploys to Afghanistan later this year, we'll be issued a new "MultiCam" camouflage pattern. Just one more for the collection, I suppose.

Of course, I'll never have to engage in such nostalgic seamstering again. The name tapes and patches on the newer army uniforms are all attached with hook-and-loop fastener (the rest of the world calls it "Velcro"). Sanitizing uniforms of name and rank is now as easy as pulling off an adhesive bandage ("Band-aid").

After the operation, I found myself holding a pile of name tapes, Red Bull and Hawkeye patches. Little fragments of olive-drab thread danced across the room, covering the family room carpet. Household-6 ordered an immediate "sweep of the area."

Go, Army.


  1. For Army uniforms I had:
    1.) OD Green Fatigues
    2.) BDUs
    3.) Kakis
    4.) OD Green "field uniform-cold weather"
    5.) DCUs
    6.) 3 styles of Army PT uniforms
    7.) ACUs (which suck)
    8.) Green Class As (why have dress blues?)

  2. No jungle fatiques? We could wear them at Bragg after Grenada while they were working up hot-weather BDU's. They were selling them for $12 a set at the PX Clothing Store... now that Vietnam-dated stuff is going for $150+. If I'd only have known...

  3. @ CI-Roller Dude: What color were your nametapes on the OD greens? My first uniform was the green "utility" uniform (blouse/shirt tucked in, I think) with BDU cap. I think the nametapes were black letters on green, but can't find a photo to validate.

    @ Anonymous: Were the junglies tiger-stripe or solid-color? And, boy, you make me miss my old green jungle boots ...

  4. The name tapes we used on the OD green fatigues were the same as used on the BDUs.
    The early version were white with black letters.
    I was one of the first to use the sew on rank on the collar. In those days, we had Spc 4, 5, 6 and a few 7s. Which was really confusing because we had some E-5 etc who were "hard stripers" and some who were specilist...but paid the same for the E-Rank.
    Then, when I think about it now...it made sense....like modern times when we would all end up lumped into the same training and we'd have an E-7 cook put in charge...who was too dumb to do anything but cook...and couldn't even do that well.
    In the old days, if a Spc 5 was working with us, and an E-4 coporal was there, the coporal was in charge.
    too confusing to explain in this space.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.