Fight For Your Right To Wear Your Own Uniform
Mis-Matched Uniform Freedom
As a former member of the military, released with an honorable discharge, I have some opinions regarding my rights to wear my own clothing. The military has attitudes about our uniforms, based on regulations, that to me are like a gang mentality. I have had two random female soldiers tell me publicly that i cant wear my uniform or other service uniforms as i want to, saying ‘its offensive’. I find that attitude to be more offensive than my representation that i wear proudly. The interesting thing is when i remove or mask the badges, like with gangs, they cant say anything.
Let me clarify first, that I am not wearing my uniform to impersonate someone else, an officer, or otherwise. I am not trying to pretend I am something I am not. I am simply wearing articles of clothing that have personal meaning to me.
I wear my berets proudly. I was given an army beret by a friend of mine in the Army while i was in the Air Force. My grandfather wore berets, so it is a family tradition. Those that find it offensive have been brainwashed by military standards that should apply only when on duty. I am proud to have served our country for 5 years, and even more proud to have all my rights as a citizen again, to express myself just as other Veterans have from other Wars. If you wanna talk about being insulted, I have also been called out for wearing my father’s army jacket, an item that has particular honor for me to wear.
I do hate the official attitude about the uniforms, it really upsets me and i never forget the times I am confronted and harassed by those that should be greeting me as a brother. I was diagnosed with PTSD by the Air Force, and i remember every time someone in the Air Force gave me crap about how i was dressed. Usually its strangers that dont understand, and dont care to. One benefit to not wearing uniforms, is i dont get harassed and threatened by soldiers. Really, the only people that ever gave me trouble for wearing uniforms or parts of a uniform are military people that want to assert their authority like a bully. Thats the only reason i dont wear mis-matched uniforms more often. Because despite the grief i get, i feel by being who i am i do deserve to wear things that mean something to me. I usually got top marks from my sergeants for how sharp my uniform was, despite the verbal shit they push.
Being told i cant wear my own clothing, or have not earned the right to represent our country through fashion, is more offensive to me than all the insults about my height I got during basic training. Shit im more hard core about why i wear the things i wear than most people are, even in the military. I think those foolish enough to give me crap assume im just being a ‘jester joker’ and are shocked when i tell them that what i wear im willing to fight for.
I have also published my opinions of the rights we willingly give up (by choice) in 2 books: BDU (my boot camp journal) & Operation 10 COW (Ten Conscientious Objections to War). I have always considered myself a patriotic warrior, and still do, despite the fact that there is no military branch for an artist like me. I did the best i could to conform, but i already felt strongly about who i am before i joined. I am proud that an individual like myself can serve and not be shot for not fitting in.
I was proud to wear my mis-matched dress uniform to the funeral of a punk rock friend of mine i went to school with, and he starred in my films. I knew he of all people would appreciate my right to wear symbolic ‘bling’, and to him also it meant something deeply personal. He taught me about the meaning behind punk rock styles of dress.
My wife thinks there is a reason it’s been women soldiers that publicly challenge me about my mis-matched uniform. She could be right, since most men dont want to get into a fist fight over it, so they are wiser than to insult a veteran that may be psychotic. I never looked at a Vietnam War Vet that was homeless and thought they were a disgrace to the dusty old tattered uniform they wore. Any doubt I had about their right to wear their uniform was annihilated after watching RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD. In that film, a Vet is harassed and beaten by local cops. Then he goes RAMBO on their asses.
Honestly you gotta be stupid to pick on a soldier and tell them they haven’t earned the right to wear what they want. The right to wear what you want is one of those freedoms some of us are willing to fight and die for. Live and let live, that’s the way i try to be.
My friend Pete “War” Manuel of the US Army had this to say about it:
“Coming from someone who went to war for this country i will say you have the right to wear whatever the hell you want, and anyone who say’s different never had any concept of what freedom really is or what they swore an oath to protect. Well truth is most who flip about that kinda stuff are more the non-combat types from my experience. In my line of work we rarely wore rank unit or any other patches other then the black or american flag, we didnt blouse our pants and wore beards and stashes and often didnt wear our acu tops. Alot of brass in the usmc thought we were some kind of vikings but our lack of uniform distingushed us as elite.”