Many people demonstrate their support for deployed citizen-soldiers by displaying flags, ribbons, and yard signs. Such symbols can be important--and even inspiring--but they don't do much to engage people on a personal level.
After all, when's the last time a stranger asked you about a bumper sticker on your car?
There's also the matter of security. Let me ask you this: Do you stop your mail and newspaper delivery when you leave home for long periods of time? Do you arrange for the neighbor kid to mow the lawn? Why, then, would you put a yellow ribbon or blue-star service flag on your door, advertising that the soldier of the house might not be home for a long, long time?
So, Sherpa, what's an outgoing but security-conscious patriot to do?
That's easy, rhetorical voice in my head! How about wearing one or more pieces of patriotic flair?
By incorporating your show of support into your wardrobe, you can encourage the people you meet to personally recognize and remember your soldier's service. Best of all, you can engage them in conversation. You can educate and evangelize what life with (and without) a citizen-soldier is all about!
Here are 5 ideas how:
Photo buttons. Ever since I can remember, proud Midwestern parents and grandparents have displayed pinback buttons featuring photos of their favorite sports stars and cheerleaders. In recent years, the tradition has grown to include pictures of soldiers, marines, and airmen. Many print shops and on-line photo processors offer button and jewelry products. You can also find do-it-yourself products suitable for making single photo buttons at local craft shops. Wearing a photo button says, "Ask me about my soldier!"
Lapel pins. Because they're smaller than buttons, lapel pins can be worn with both casual and formal business attire. Yellow ribbons indicate that someone is missing a loved one, while a blue-star service flag is more specific to having a service member deployed overseas. Veterans have even more options: They can, for example, choose to wear small versions of campaign ribbons to indicate their theaters of service. If members, they can also wear the emblems of such organizations as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).
T-shirts. Many unit Family Readiness Groups (F.R.G) and other organizations sell custom T-shirts as fund-raisers. The division patch is often the most recognized symbol--in the case of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34 BCT), that would be the ubiquitous "bovine skull on water jug" emblem. Both the brigade and battalions have individual "crests," symbol-rich emblems that remind many people of heraldic "coats of arms." Make the T-shirts red, and you can also help celebrate ...
Red clothing. The origins of the practice may be a little hard to pin down, but many organizations and groups have adopted "Remember Everyone Deployed" Fridays--"R.E.D. Fridays." Anything goes: Hats, coats, T-shirts. It's a fun and visible way to celebrate our troops. Best of all, if you can scrounge up something red out of the closet, you don't necessarily have to buy anything else.
Purses, bags, and wallets. A fellow 234th Signal Battalion alumna brought this idea to my attention. She's a self-described "S.A.H.M."--you can apparently take the girl out of the Army, but not take the Army's love of acronyms out of the girl--a mother of three, and psychology student to boot. She's also joined up with "Hero on my Arm," a mil-spouse-owned business that re-makes old uniforms into fun and functional purses, bags, and other items. Click here to learn more!