WASHINGTON — When honoring the red, white and blue today, don’t forget the purple, silver and bronze.

Officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs are reminding all former servicemembers to proudly wear or display their medals this Independence Day as part of an effort to highlight their sacrifices and inspire the next generation of military members.

VA Secretary Jim Nicholson proposed the idea last fall, just before Veterans Day. He said veterans groups have told him they’ve used the initiative to spread more information about their members, and individuals to tell their families about their experiences.

“I received one letter from the wife of a soldier who served in Vietnam who never wore his Purple Heart because he thought it would be boastful,” he said. “When we announced this, he wore it with great pride on Veterans Day. She was excited, too, because it got the whole family talking about what he did and why.”

Nicholson said the idea is based on veterans celebrations in Australia, where veterans and family members routinely wear their medals on national holidays.

“You don’t have to have been a hero, you don’t have to have been in combat,” he said. “Everyone is important to the total force, and we want people to know and honor that.”

The initiative is completely voluntary. VA officials reminded all veterans and current servicemembers to double check their service history if they have questions about what honors they may or may not have earned, and to follow appropriate rules for wearing the awards.

For more information on the medals initiative or for guidelines on proper display of medals, visit

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