Have you ever wondered why camouflage is sold as fashion? Please take a moment and think about this. If you’re not a police officer but you carry a numbered shield that says “police” you can be arrested and charged with impersonating an officer.
Yet anyone can walk into a crafts store, or even a military surplus store to buy camouflage print fabric or even clothing. There, next to the storage lockers and canteens, two aisles over from the backpacks and survival gear. And very few people have heard of the Stolen Valor Act. For a while, the Stolen Valor Act was actually labeled as unconstitutional.
And if we check department stores, every so often there’s tropical prints with banana leaf designs. On clothing and curtains. Hmm, fashion as free speech. But that may be a story for another day.
Some time ago on Twitter, I jumped into a conversation discussing camouflage as a trend for fashion. At the time, my reaction was immediate, and heated. As the daughter of one military veteran (Army, Korea, 1950s), and the wife of another military veteran (Army, Middle East, 1990s), the idea of camouflage as cute does not compute.
My husband (AP) happens to understand, and agree with, my opinion. He also has his own experience after serving in combat. His two siblings are police officers. What follows is a transcript of our discussion. Names are edited for privacy’s sake, and camouflage was shortened to camo. Nothing else was changed.
OP You know .. before we met, I had a soft spot for the military. I didn’t know you were military when we met, right? I just knew you were (a police officer)’s brother, I didn’t know about your family. So .. now that you’ve seen me get started up about people wearing camouflage as fashion, I’m gonna ask you .. you spent how much time in the military?
AP 8 years
OP and when you wore camo it was
AP for duty.
OP did you ever wear camo off duty?
AP it was considered work clothes
OP so when you were off duty and you saw someone wearing camo, your opinion was
AP what a goof
OP and if you saw a woman wearing camo with heels your opinion was
AP very impractical
OP and if you saw a homeless man wearing camo
AP an old brother
OP and what would you do if you saw a homeless man wearing camo?
AP you know, about 15% of the vets that come out, become homeless? And the sad part is, because everything you’ve done in the mil, we can’t share with our family, you can’t tell anybody, so .. you kinda get bogged down, so every time I see a homeless man and I can tell he’s a vet .. you can tell by the way he carries himself, you can tell by the way he acts, or he even acts towards other people being homeless, I will go out of my way. They hate, though – they hate to be given money. Because they feel like they’re weak, and that’s one thing I never wanna make anybody else feel like they’re weak. But I will ask them to buy a cup of coffee. I will ask them, look I got an extra sandwich, do you want one? So for that I will literally go out of the way to help that person without letting them know I’m actually helping them. But to see the kids today wear camo as a fashion statement? Really. That is a sore point to me. Because I put it on to defend this country. Only about 15% actually join the military because it’s a calling. They’re not doing it for the college money, they’re not doing it to get away from their parents. They’re doing it because they have a calling inside of them. So I take it very literally to heart, people wear camo and have no clue what it means.
OP And now that you’ve been out for a while, and you see other veterans, are there things that you want to say or do to help any kids going into the military?
AP First thing I would tell them is to think about it.
AP My personal experience .. I always tell everybody .. the young boy that went in, died in the military. Because the man that came out was a product of the training and everything that happened to me. So if you’re not ready to face yourself – cause they’re gonna break you down – and you need to realize what is your core belief. Did you do this because you were called and you felt the yearning or did you do it just to get away from mami and papi, just to get away from home, did you do it just to basically get college money? So there’s a big difference. You actually gotta sit there and face yourself. People will tell you a thousand things. Recruiters are trained to bullshit you. Depending on the emblem he wears – if he’s wearing silver, he’s just a beginner. He hasn’t got that many people. If that boy is wearing gold, or wearing platinum leaves on it, run .. away .. from .. him. He is a used car man that will sell you a lemon, you’re gonna end up with an olive, and you’re gonna sweep the motor pool. And he’s gonna tell you, your job is gonna be the greatest job in the world.
OP If you could do it over
AP If I could do it over? Without a hesitation, without a heartbeat. I would do everything I did, all over again.
OP Hmm. Thank you.
After interviewing hubby for part 1, I searched for photos and images to include in the post. There was a bikini shot of some pouty long-haired women, and a screen shot of a pop star in boot camp for her music video.
OP OK, adding on to earlier, when you saw this performer on tv – 4th of July, battleship, NY Harbor, singing her song and she was wearing what looked like military uniform, how did that feel for you?
AP It was kinda insulting
AP She never served a day, she doesn’t know what it feels like to wear those colors of the uniform. To just have somebody dress, to be a fashion statement, pisses on everything else who had to wear it, who deserves to be recognized.
OP So if this person did USO tours.
AP That’s what, their version of saying “oh look, I’m here to support you”? It still means what, it gives the troops a morale boost because hey they got a star coming to sing to them but those who take the uniform for what it is, it’s kinda insulting.
OP So when she did her video and it looks like she’s going through basic training to remake herself.
AP She should try it for real and then write a song about it
OP Anything else to add
AP Nope. That’s basically it.
I clicked the record button off, but he was still talking. I had to scramble to click record “on” again.
OP You were saying …
AP To make it a fashion statement, to me is insulting for the simple reason as it pisses on every person that wore the uniform and died for this country cause you wanna look good but you don’t got your heart to defend the country you’re looking good for.
OP So if somebody, if say a serviceperson puts their kid in camo.
AP The serviceperson knows how it feels. The kid, it’s showing the kid, look this is what we wore or I wore to show you how you have your freedom. It’s a double edge sword. People could say, people in the military wear it just to hang out or people in the civilian world well it’s a fashion statement why can’t we wear it. It all falls down to what your core values are.
OP So if you see a kid wearing camo.
AP I’m gonna ask, you know. If it’s somebody pertaining to me, I’m gonna ask em. Hey, you know anybody who served? They’ll probably say no. Oh, it just looked good. Rapper so and so had it on. Oh it looked good. This singer had it on. Half the people don’t realize what it really is.
OP So when, um, anybody who hasn’t served, regardless of gender, you react the same way?
AP My reaction as it is, simply put, because I know how it is to wear it. My job started at 7 o’clock in the morning, ended at 6 o’clock in the afternoon on regular train – on regular workdays. I couldn’t wait to get out (of) that uniform. Cause it gave me a sense of reality and freedom to wear regular clothes.
OP Any other thoughts?
AP I’m good.
OP Thank you.
Please note: the stats on enlisted military and homeless vets, as mentioned by AP, were based on his experience during enlistment and after discharge. As time has passed, unemployment throughout the United States has been called a recession and even depression, so I expect the numbers on homeless vets would be higher. When searching for recent statistics, I found this link for the Veterans Administration on homelessness and veterans.
Next time you see a military recruiting ad, or see National Guard called up to handle unrest or an emergency – think of how much the military does on American soil and around the world.
Please consider donating money, or volunteering with an organization such as Homes for Troops, Wounded Warrior Project and Soldier On that work every day to show our active, wounded, and veterans – anyone who wore the camouflage because it was a uniform – let’s show our military how grateful we are for their sacrifices.
Freedom isn’t free. It was paid in blood, sweat and tears.