The patch of one of the Army’s most storied divisions is coming to Sears — and not everyone is pleased about it.
The distinctive "Big Red One" insignia and colors of the 1st Infantry Division are part of an Army-inspired clothing line being rolled out this year for the department store.
The Army licensed the 1st ID insignia to All American Apparel in June 2007, according to Army spokesman Paul Boyce. Under the licensing agreement, the Army will receive royalties on any profits beginning in 2009.
The Army wasn’t paid up front for the 1st ID insignia use, Boyce said, and royalties will go to programs for troops and military families.
Not all soldiers or 1st ID veterans agreed on the appropriateness of having such a symbolic unit patch on a line of commercial clothing.
Joe Argenzio lied about his age and joined the Army as a 16-year-old during World War II. He soon found himself with the 1st ID just in time for D-Day. On June 6, 1944, he was among the first Allied troops to hit the French coast.
The division, its history and its patch all mean "an awful lot," he said.
Argenzio’s father served with the 1st ID in World War I, and as a boy he lived near Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, N.Y., where a division regiment was stationed.
"I don’t like it to be commercialized," he said. "My father would turn over in his grave."
Some active-duty soldiers also disagree with the patch’s commercial use.
"Unless someone’s related somehow [to a unit], they shouldn’t wear it," said Pvt. Chris Latona, 19, of the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s Special Troops Battalion out of Bamberg, Germany. "It’s not like a sports team."
Since its inception in 1917 as the first U.S. Army division, the Big Red One is America’s longest continuously serving division.
It led the D-Day assault into Europe in World War II after extended campaigns in North Africa and Italy. It also was the first American unit to take a major German city after the invasion.
Except for the Korean War, the 1st ID, based in Fort Riley, Kan., has fought in every American conflict since then.
Boyce said the Army hopes the licensing will give the public a chance to "display pride in their country and its armed forces" via the 1st ID clothing.
The Army is working with All American Apparel to ensure appropriate use of patches and insignia, Boyce said.
"Strong brand identification through retail sales of products potentially can enhance the Army’s recruiting efforts and the public’s general goodwill toward the Army and its activities," Boyce said in an e-mail.
Former division commander and retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste said last week that he supported the licensing initiative because profits will go to soldier programs and the clothing will build goodwill and awareness of the division.
Batiste, one of the generals who called for then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation in 2006 over the Iraq war, commanded the 1st ID through an Iraq deployment from 2003 to 2004.
"In today’s America, where so few serve their country in the armed forces, I cannot think of a finer division patch to connect with the people we serve," Batiste said in an e-mail. "As long as Sears does it right, I support an initiative that will cause people to appreciate our great division."
It’s not the first time the Big Red One has graced a commercial product. The video game "Call of Duty 2: Big Red One" was released a few years ago and involved players recreating the division’s World War II campaigns.
Boyce said the video game maker did not approach the Army before using the division in that game, but that branches have had their units wind up in video games before.
Stripes reporter Mark St. Clair contributed to this report.