Is It Legal to Wear Military Patches?

| October 29, 2020

An article at poses the question as to whether it is legal or not to wear military patches.

Is It Illegal To Wear Military Patches?

Many people love collecting military patches and wear them on some special occasions. The collections are very valuable to be sitting in the closet box or some drawer.

If you have some of them, don’t worry, you can wear them as much as you want because they are legal to wear; it’s your free will. If you are in a mood to wear it and it’s making you proud, choose your favorite, and you are ready to go.

The article is kind of whimsical and upbeat.

If you wear military patches in the street, you will not be stopped by police or some other force organization, so you have your right to wear everything you want and everything in what you feel comfortable and happy with. If wearing patches makes you happy and proud, you should do that.

What do you mean “their” people?  Is that like “you” people?

On the other side, you can cause some negative reactions from other people, especially veterans. Veterans have some signs by which they can recognize “their” people; they are like one big family located in different places. It means them a lot when they meet someone of their own, and sometimes you can find yourself in conversation with a veteran who recognized your patch. By the talking, when he realizes that you didn’t serve in any unit, they can get feeling like you are trying to steal their valor.

It seems to warn you to watch out for veterans.

All this talking about “stolen valor” is too much. It’s wrong that is likely spun a little out of control because no one can know other people’s intentions, maybe that person who wears the patch has ( or had) a desire to join the military and serve the country, and that’s their way to shows it. And something really important, no one can steal you your valor because it’s yours and individual.

“That’s their way to shows it.”

“… no one can steal you your valor…”

You had me at “to shows it” and “steal you your valor.”

Your take may be different than mine – but it seems to flirt with having a “wind-chimey, flower-child” approach to the writing.

I couldn’t tell if the author was an attorney, but he advertises himself as a blogger and author that covers the law.

The argument he makes is similar to what is wrong with this country – it is actually not illegal but may be immoral.  The same is true about lying – it is not illegal to lie to the media and have your lies broadcasted or printed.  It is different to lie under oath, but the media is free game.  Politicians and ex-high level intelligence appointees fully understand this distinction.

I don’t have strong opinions one way or the other about unit patches, but qualification patches may be a different issue. Some of you may feel differently.

Category: Legal, Stolen Valor, Stolen Valor Act

Comments (86)

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  1. Roh-Dog says:

    I wear a Gender Studies diploma from Harvard on my going-out tweed coat.
    It gets the gender fluids going, gotta beat them off with a stick down at the Korova Soymilk Bar.

  2. 26Limabeans says:

    The question was settled back in the 60’s 70’s with every long
    haired hippie wearing a field jacket festooned with bling.
    Some of them got the crap beat out of them. Some disappeared.
    Some went on to become Democrat politicians eg John Kerry.
    Wear whatever you like. Just keep in mind you may end up wearing
    it as an integral part of your digestive system.

  3. E4 Mafia '83-'87 says:

    When my son left for bootcamp, I started wearing his Navy DEP hat that he never wore because all their meeting held online because of the WuFlu. I also told him to get me a command sanctioned blue baseball-style hat wherever he goes (ship/shore/squadron/sub). I will wear it proudly, and if anybody asks where I got it “My son is stationed _______ in the Navy…just like his Dad”.

  4. Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH B Woodman says:

    I would look at the intent.
    If you wear one or two unit patches, for fun or memory, ok by me.
    If you wear the entire unauthorized Soup Sammich (remember him?) uniform, you’re just plain wrong.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      Yeah, but the late Soupie was wearing ribbons and awards that he never received. That’s not the same thing as wearing a McCall’s pattern Eisenhower-style jacket (very comfortable, BTW) that is awash in a HUGE mix of patches and embroidered stuff.

  5. Only Army Mom says:

    I got a headache trying to read that drivel. I don’t know which is worse, the writing or the logic. If it pleases the court, I present “Exhibit A” in the case for calling blogging graffiti with punctuation.

    • Daisy Cutter says:

      I bet the working title was “Treat Yourself to the Exciting Hobby of Military Patches.”

      Some sections were dropped, such as:

      * Trade patches with friends
      * Create a scrapbook to hold your patches
      * Leather vest and doo-rag – just say “YES”

      • timactual says:

        Funny you should put it that way. When I was a kid Military Patches actually was a kind of hobby whose practitioners did “Trade patches with friends”. I am betting it still is. Some people collect matchbooks, some collect military memorabilia, including patches.

        Myself, I wore boots and a parka (in season) for decades after my service. Boots were comfortable, easy to maintain, all-weather all-terrain. Parka was warm, also made a good blanket or pillow. Wish I still had it.

        • The Dead Man says:

          My patch collection started when I was a kid and involved a bomber jacket, an EOD tech being tackled so they could steal his patch and it being applied to my coat. I… don’t wear them. They’re a neat bit of history.

          Out here at the Air Shows a lot of units sell their unit patches to fund raise. No problem with that.

    • Poetrooper says:

      I’d wager the author is a foreigner–the syntax and sentence construction is simply out of whack for a native English speaker.

  6. Combat Historian says:

    99.8 percent of the civilian masses out there don’t have a freakin clue what the shoulder patches and unit insignias mean. They usually like to wear unit patches and aviation squadron/wing insignia with kewl animal mascots or flaming skulls on them; the particular unit’s heraldry or symbolism or history is beyond meaningless to these folks. Trendy millennials and gen-Xers wearing this stuff truly don’t have a clue…

  7. JURASSICHM says:

    Did some guy from a call center overseas write that crap?

    • Daisy Cutter says:

      “The collections are very valuable to be sitting in the closet box or some drawer.”

      It’s like a puzzle to solve – structurally, what’s wrong with this sentence?

      • Ex-PH2 says:

        What’s wrong? It is poorly written and indicates the author has a poor grasp of English, period.

        So what planet does he come from? I thought aliens locked their doors when they pass through our solar system.

      • David says:

        Well, start with “The” and it goes downhill from there. This reads (to paraphrase) like it was written by someone who had good English described to him, but who had never actually seen it.

        • Mason says:

          I think I get Emails and phone calls daily from this guy. Word is he’s got some money from an inheritance for me in Latvia.

          • Wilted Willy says:

            What I am really sick of is the social security scam calls I get at least 10 to 15 a day!!!!

            • timactual says:

              Count your blessings. Not only has my SS number expired but my IP address and Microsoft license are about to be revoked.

              As soon as my Nigerian business partner pays up I am going to hire a lawyer to settle all this.

  8. Ex-PH2 says:

    Veterans have some signs by which they can recognize “their” people – oh, REALLY????? No one’s ever recognized me but then, unlike the author of this piece who is a bit of a dipstick (in my view), I have never had to puff myself off as something I’m not.

    And I DO have my graduation certificate for the Space Shuttle Doorgunner School, signed by real official people, not sci-fi studio producers. So if I want to wear that patch and the one I did on my sewing machine (machine embroidery is a hoot), and all the other stuff I picked up along the way, well, by golly, Harry, I will do so.

    Yeah, it’s time to go back to wearing all that patch crap, isn’t it? If I could just get one that says “Plutonium Tanker Crew 101A/125PTC” with a slogan that says “We Eat Plutonium for Breakfast”, I’d be happy.

    • KoB says:

      Oh bother and blather on about Galactica, shoulda been with us on a REAL Battlestar, Pegasus, a Mercury Class, reputed to have been destroyed in the Battle of New Caprica, but in fact, the FIRST Battlestar to find its way to that 3rd Rock from the Sun…Earth…Home of the 13th Colony. Now docked, still hidden, in a triangle of the sea near Bermuda.

      As the Spaced Based Artillery Platforms go it was FIRST and Foremost head and shoulders above the Galactica, with a total of 34 Batteries, plus assorted fixed point defense cannons, a multitude of close in weapons support, full Squadrons of Viper VII, and the complement of Razor multi use aircraft.

      I was proud to serve, ahem, “under” Admiral Helena Cain. She, like many of us on the Pegasus, thought that Commander Adama was a wimp, and if he had of had a pair, the Cylons would have been beaten long before.

      We Pegasus Gunners WILL take offense if we see some unauthorized wearing of a Pegasus Patch.

    • Ray says:

      Ex-PHs don’t need signs to recognize each other. They all smell like fixer.

    • timactual says:

      I guess we old-timers missed the out-processing orientation where they gave out the secret decoder rings and secret handshake.

      Maybe they brought back the “Ruptured Duck” and forgot to tell us.

  9. Daisy Cutter says:

    In the article, the author writes:

    “If you find yourself in a discussion with veterans, do not argue too much or be aggressive. Just explain your attention in the best way, and every reasonable person will understand you. Words are keys to good communication and understanding, and a lot of problems start when we don’t use them.”

    Let me try and rewrite this to where it makes sense:

    “If you find yourself in a discussion with veterans, STFU. Just explain your INtention in the best way… or better yet… STFU. Words are key to good communication and understanding, but can contribute to butt-hurtness if you don’t STFU. Take off the jacket, or rip off the patch if you are lucky enough to have them Velcro’d on. If all else fails and you sense that the veteran is becoming more agitated as you try to explain… STFU. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT offer to buy the veteran a Starbucks iced caramel macchiato as a gesture of friendship.”

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      Or else wear a jacket that is awash in patches and stuff from all four branches (including the puddle pounders) and tell people it’s just one of your hobbies.

    • Mason says:

      My intent wasn’t to offend when I shouted “You n—–s rock!” at the Howard University graduation last year. /s

      As if intent completely absolves someone from responsibility for their transgressions.

    • MI Ranger says:

      Yeah, hot is better than that iced crap!

  10. OWB says:

    Would someone please tell this clown that stolen valor is when someone CLAIMS military experience that one does not have? Seriously, it really IS just that simple.

    Wearing a patch is not stolen valor until a false claim is made regarding that patch. My wearing a 5th Army patch because my Dad was with the 5th Army (I have a couple of his patches) in Europe in 1944-45 is easily explained unless I claim to have served there myself.

    (For the record, I have not and will not wear that patch alone because it just isn’t my thing, but I DO have something similar with “In Memorium” embroidered under it sewn on my vest. Yes, one of those vests.)

    The author of this article is clearly an idiot. Perhaps willfully ignorant as well.

  11. The Other Whitey says:

    Here’s my civilian perspective:

    Is it legal? Yes.

    Is it cool? Absolutely not, apart from obvious exceptions like a small child’s Halloween costume or Gold Star parents wearing their son’s patch.

    Barring those exceptions, are you a fucking douchebag for wearing an unearned patch? Yes.

    You can, but that doesn’t mean you should.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      Hey, I EARNED my Space Shuttle Doorgunner’s patch, fella! I went to SSDG “A” school just for that.
      :p :p :p

      • MI Ranger says:

        Ex-PH2 is that the Olympic Torch with a Wing on it? or the Astronaut bubble helmet complete with air hoses?

        So my question is can I now wear my Power Point Tab above my Ranger Tab?
        What about that Secret Squirrel patch I got from someone in Baghram?

      • Ex-PH2 says:

        Boy, I dunno! They’re all over the place. If I ever go to another sci-fi con, I will have to figure out how to put together a patch for the Fleet Marines, because that involves something like the arm and hammer on the Arm & Hammer baking soda box, except it’s got wings, and crossed plasma rifles.

  12. Martinjmpr says:

    Intention is everything in law.

    Wearing military decorations or uniforms because they “look cool” is legal (even if it’s silly.)

    Wearing military decorations or uniforms for the purpose of deceiving others in order to obtain some good or service one would not otherwise be entitled to is fraud.

    But even then, it’s not the wearing of the decoration or uniform, per se, that is unlawful, it is the fraudulent intent behind it.

    There are lots of photos of John Lennon wearing a green Army fatigue shirt with Sergeant (E-5) strips and a 2nd Infantry division patch. But nobody would accuse John of Stolen Valor because nobody believed he was ever representing that the shirt was anything other than something found in a second hand store.

  13. MarineDad61 says:

    It took me 2 minutes
    to determine that the author
    Jacob Maslow
    is writing this story from OUTSIDE THE U.S.A.
    in Jerusalem, ISRAEL.

    Jacob Maslow is a:
    – Trump hater
    – Occupy Democrats follower
    – Spreader of Hitler/Trump hate propaganda.

    Stick that in your yarmulke and smoke it.

    • MarineDad61 says:

      BONUS –
      Punch line.
      Almost all his FakeBook posts have 0 or 1 clicks.
      in the international world of FakeBook,
      author(?) Jacob Maslow is being ignored.

    • Poetrooper says:

      My first guess after reading a coupla paragraphs of that drivel and checking the author’s name was “Israeli”.

      • MarineDad61 says:

        There’s nothing wrong with being Israeli,
        or Jewish,
        but there’s a LOT wrong
        with spouting American partisan politics
        from the other side of the globe…..
        … and then worse,
        thinking he has anything of value to say
        about the US military, patches, truth, and Stolen Valor.
        What a turd bag.

        • Poetrooper says:

          Yep, I agree–Maslow claims he’s a native New Yorker on his website “about us” tab.

          I don’t believe it…

          Didn’t mean anything negative with my comment–only that my initial suspicion was that he was Israeli rather than American.

          Ol’ Poe’s a huge admirer of Israel and the only Jews he doesn’t like are the morons who blindly and stupidly support Marxism and the Democrat party.

          • MarineDad61 says:

            No dig intended.
            When it comes to international assholes
            taking swipes at America or Americans,
            no one gets a free pass, based on nationality alone.

  14. Deckie says:

    There’s a hipster type around here I see in the bar who wears an M41 field jacket with 103rd ID and T/4 insignia on it, albeit with jeans and his graphic tees/beanie cap. That’s no big deal as it’s just stylish to hipsters I suppose, but when folks start claiming badges/medals and trying to get ahead in life with those lies… buzzzz… time out. No bueno.

  15. Peter the Bubblehead says:

    On several occasions I have run into people wearing submarine-related ballcaps – usually command ballcaps – and I will often ask if they served on the boats.

    On those occasions where they admit they did not, I do not accuse them of stolen valor or demand they do not wear something they did not earn. Most often the cap was purchased from a museum store or because they had the privilege of getting a tour of said boat or are friends with or related to someone who served or is serving on said boat. Nothing wrong with supporting the submarine force, or the US Military in general! And it’s no different than me wearing the command ballcaps of ships I toured but never actually served aboard.

    As long as the wearer is not claiming service they did not perform, wearing a patch or hat or other identifying item should not be looked down upon in any way.

  16. 26Limabeans says:

    Is it illegal to lie about NOT being a veteran?
    Every time I register for a non VA medical appointment I get
    asked if I am a veteran. I would like to say “none of your business”
    but lately just answer “No”. To answer “yes” just brings on more
    questions that are none of their business.
    It reminds me of the question “do you keep a gun in the house?
    Can I be refused medical care for not answering?

    • Ret_25X says:

      I always tell them that I have no guns.

      After all, artillery is very expensive and not very conducive to CCW

  17. Green Thumb says:

    I served in two different units and I wear those patches on my hat sometimes. But only those two.

  18. Wilted Willy says:

    I wish any of you could translate that phony rack my pos brother is wearing in his picture at the Purple Heart award ceremony? Talk about showing a bunch of shit!!!
    Fuck Him with the Barbed Cock of Satan!!!

  19. Retired Grunt says:

    I am LITERALLY just waiting for the Space Force’s coveted space shuttle door gunner patch. That could actually be a thing soon.

  20. I wear a USS Okinawa LPH 3 cap, USS Haynsworth DD 700 cap, Dom Rep vet cap, couple of just Navy caps and an ARNG cap. USS Haysworth cap has a 3rd class crow pinned on it. No good on the LPH 3 cap because I made MM3 before I got out and was not yet awarded the crow. DD 214 has E 3 on it and when I started my inactive Reserve obligation, the records were checked and I was able to wear the crow which is nothing to crow about since it took me the slow learner 3 years to get it. My tees are all Navy and Fire Dept and the other draw has all sleeveless Fire and Navy tees. While I’m at it, could someone tell me if I could wear a crow on my USS Okinawa cap since I passed the practical factors tests but got out before I was able to wear it on the ship. I always felt that I shouldn’t wear it because of what I just mentioned.

    • OWB says:

      You may have earned it but it was not awarded. So, no.

      Most of us likely earned stuff that was not awarded for many reasons. Would never even consider wearing something which was not awarded because, well, it wasn’t awarded. Got some paperwork saying it was earned? Not likely, but even if you do, why wear something you didn’t actually get?

      Gee, if I’d just done this or that, I would have been given thus and so. Where would it end? Is it OK for a guy to wear E-9 stripes just because he did everything he needed to do to get them except stay in long enough for them to be awarded? No.

      • OWB;
        Thanks for the heads up on the crow OWB. Strange that I passed the test then When the records were checked when in the inactive reserves it was then okay to wear it.

        • OWB says:

          So you WERE awarded it??? That’s a whole different ball of wax.

          Now I’m confused.

          • OWB;
            I passed the E4 MM3 test onboard the ship but the E4 MM3 was not on my DD 214. When I started in the inactive Reserves after I got out, The records were checked which showed the new E4 MM3 rank/rate promotion in the records so it was most likely overlooked on the DD 214. So that’s why I was asking if I could wear the crow on my Okinawa cap since I passed the test while onboard the ship.

            • Mason says:

              You have any documentation? I’d think that should have been reflected on an updated DD-214. If it’s not and you’ve got the paper, getting your records corrected should be possible. Will probably take ten years. 😉

  21. Dennis - not chevy says:

    I met a “hipster” wearing an old USAF service dress blouse with two stripes on the sleeves. I do mean old, it had the Captain Kangaroo pockets. I asked the young man if it was his father’s or his grandfather’s. He asked what would be the difference. I told him if it was his father’s, the stripes would be Airman First Class; his grandfather’s, the stripes would be Airman Second Class. He got upset, I figured he was trying to pass as a Veteran and got tangled up in the details.

  22. rgr769 says:

    I think patch wearing is a great way for veterans to identify each other. Yesterday, I had a chat with a fellow wearing an 8th Division patched hat. We compared Baumholder stories.

    • Claw says:

      Baumholder? Ain’t that where you can see/have all four seasons in a day?/s


      • SFC D says:

        Doesn’t even take a full day. Only place I ever had to cancel a range due to fog. Couldn’t see the firing line from the tower, firers couldn’t see the 50m targets.

        • timactual says:

          Sounds like the day I “qualified” Expert with the M-14. Also at Baumholder. Wind blowing snow, rain, sleet directly into our faces. I was so proud (and surprised).

          To this day when we have weather like that I have a big smile on my face, because I am inside–warm and dry, possibly with a beverage in my hand.

    • timactual says:

      Baumholder does leave an impression.

    • Poetrooper says:

      Counselor, your reference to the 8th ID sent me to Wikipedia to look up their patch when I had a momentary OFD moment. There I discovered the division operated a jump school in Germany, something of which I was unaware. Couldn’t find any more info on it in my Web search.

      Anybody here know anything about it?

      • Combat Historian says:

        8th ID actually had a jump-qualified airborne battalion as part of its MTOE during most of its posting in Germany, something to do with the specific tasks and missions assigned to the division in NATO war plans. This capability lasted until 1974, when changes to the war plans eliminated the need for the airborne battalion in the division, and the airborne battalion was inactivated and/or reflagged as a ground mech battalion…

      • Claw says:

        Poe, I was able to find that the 8th ID jump school was at Clay Kaserne at Wiesbaden AB. It initially opened for business in the latter half of 1958, but couldn’t find a specific closing date.

        My best guess for closing is 63 or 64.

      • Claw says:

        Poe, some additional research reveals that the 11th QM Parachute Supply and Maintenance Company (Separate) that started out with the school became a subordinate unit to the 8th S&T Battalion in September 1965.

        I’m guessing the jump school had terminated by then. The 11th QM continued to support the Division Airborne elements (1&2d of the 509th) and equipment rigging until 1973, then was reassigned to Fort Bragg.

        But you just gotta love the 11th QM Company’s Motto of “Try Jumping Without Us”./s

        • Poetrooper says:

          Thanks guys. I knew the 509th was part of the 8th as we had troopers transferring between that unit and the units in the 327th and 506th which I was in at Fort Campbell. Never was able to swing that PCS myself.

          Just wasn’t aware they operated their own jump school.

          And yeah, Claw, that is a GREAT unit motto…

          • Claw says:

            I looked a little further into this and as near as I can tell, when the jump schools terminated at Bragg and Campbell in mid-62/63? and everything went to Benning, the jump school in Germany also ended.

            • Poetrooper says:

              Jump school was still operational at FC in June ’64 because I went through refresher training there and there was a black hat cadre running things. Would they keep them around for just refresher training? Be awfully expensive.

              Just found multiple references from guys I know that say it was operating as late as ’66.

              • Poetrooper says:

                Operating as Basic Airborne Training facility…

                • Claw says:

                  “FC was operating as late as ’66”

                  OK, Gotcha. Was before my time and was only trying to relay info found on the sometimes hinky interwebs./s

                  Did find some other info on a forum discussion that may shed some additional light. It seems that the 8th ID jump school only produced qualified jumpers to those already in country Legs that wanted to transfer over to the 504th/505th (eventually 509th) and for those who were aspiring to be Special Forces who weren’t yet Airborne qualified.

                  All in all, it doesn’t sound like they were producing mass numbers of Paratroopers.

      • timactual says:

        “….In 1963 the division was reorganized into a brigade structure with the 1st Brigade on jump status, and 1-504th was reorganized and reflagged as the 1st Battalion (Abn), 509th Infantry[14] and 1-505th as the 2d Battalion (Abn), 509th Infantry. Supporting units throughout the division (for example, one field artillery battalion, one company of the engineer battalion, one platoon of the MP company, etc.) were also on jump status. The 8th Infantry Division operated its own jump school at Wiesbaden Air Base to support its 1st Brigade as well as other elements of the United States Army, Europe.[…”

  23. Ray says:

    We went to an air show a few years ago and my 4 year old wanted to wear my USS Coral Sea hat. Nobody confused him with a member of ship’s company. About the same time, I saw a kid in his early 20s with a SERE t-shirt on at a fair. I walked up to him and said, “Hey, war criminal!” and he looked at me confused. If you’ve been through SERE, I think anyone would have some sort of response to that. I wanted to give him crap but my wife talked sense into me. So yeah, I think there’s a difference between unit patches and qualification patches (et. al).

  24. OlafTheTanker says:

    I always got a kick out of Hollywierd trying too hard to depict ‘fictional” Unit patches, like movies out there that had the 63rd ARCOM patch upside down, or using CECOM patches for a combat unit..

  25. OmegaPaladin says:

    So if I get a Space Force hat or a USS Enterprise CVN-65 cap (my dad’s ship), I don’t have to worry about you all kicking my ass and PH-2 deploying the frying pan?

  26. Steve Weeks says:

    I was promoted to Spec. 6, Aug. 1971 on Okinawa. I held the rank for one day. I agreed to give up the stripe to the second man on the list as I was given a ninth day early out. I had been in the Army for 21 months. Can I claim Spec. 6, my DD214 has Spec. 5?