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Terry Shima, right, of the Japanese-American Veterans Association helps Ranger Hall of Famer and World War II Merrill’s Marauder Grant Hirabayashi pin on his Combat Infantryman Badge before Wednesday’s news conference for the Veterans Pride Initiative at the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington.
Terry Shima, right, of the Japanese-American Veterans Association helps Ranger Hall of Famer and World War II Merrill’s Marauder Grant Hirabayashi pin on his Combat Infantryman Badge before Wednesday’s news conference for the Veterans Pride Initiative at the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington. (Joe Gromelski / S&S)
Terry Shima, right, of the Japanese-American Veterans Association helps Ranger Hall of Famer and World War II Merrill’s Marauder Grant Hirabayashi pin on his Combat Infantryman Badge before Wednesday’s news conference for the Veterans Pride Initiative at the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington.
Terry Shima, right, of the Japanese-American Veterans Association helps Ranger Hall of Famer and World War II Merrill’s Marauder Grant Hirabayashi pin on his Combat Infantryman Badge before Wednesday’s news conference for the Veterans Pride Initiative at the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington. (Joe Gromelski / S&S)
Al Ortiz of Chapter 1775 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart was on hand with his wife, Val, a member of the group's ladies' auxiliary.
Al Ortiz of Chapter 1775 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart was on hand with his wife, Val, a member of the group's ladies' auxiliary. (Joe Gromelski / S&S)
From left to right, Rose Lee, Suzanne Stack and Edie Smith of the Gold Star Wives.
From left to right, Rose Lee, Suzanne Stack and Edie Smith of the Gold Star Wives. (Joe Gromelski / S&S)
Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson is joined on the podium by several veterans as he announces the Veterans Pride Initiative.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson is joined on the podium by several veterans as he announces the Veterans Pride Initiative. (Joe Gromelski / S&S)

WASHINGTON — There’s a new dress code for Veterans Day this year.

Officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs are encouraging all former servicemembers to dust off their medals and wear them next month as a show of pride and patriotism.

“You don’t have to put them on only if you’re in a parade,” said VA Secretary Jim Nicholson. “Wear them when you go play golf. Wear them when you go to the store. Let America know that you took that oath and served.”

The idea is based on celebrations in countries such as Australia, where veterans and their family members routinely display their medals on national holidays.

Veterans organizations embraced Wednesday’s announcement.

“I think it’s a great way to increase patriotism,” said Terry Shima, executive director of the Japanese American Veterans Association. “More people will recognize our veterans, and more people will think about our current armed forces.”

Herb Rosenbleeth, director of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA, said two of his World War II veteran relatives recently pulled out their old military decorations and have begun sharing stories with the family.

“They did other things; they worked for 40 years and had good lives, but that’s their biggest source of pride right now,” he said. “They want to be able to talk about them.”

Nicholson said the initiative is completely voluntary, and he reminded all veterans to check their service history if they have questions about what honors they did or didn’t earn.

But he said he hopes that this will become a tradition for all national holidays, and said he thinks it will benefit the current services as much as the retired troops.

“I think this will start dialogues, inspire neighbors to talk to veterans who live next door about their sacrifice,” he said. “I hope it will help with recruiting, because our veterans are the face of America.”

Wednesday’s announcement also featured several soldiers recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, who said they liked the idea of carrying that military tradition well beyond their years in the service.

“It’s just a great chance to show that it is something to be proud of,” said Capt. Robert Klinger, injured in Iraq earlier this year while serving with the 1st Armored Division.

Weiichi Kuwayama, a veteran who served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II, had to search a bit to find his Purple Heart and Silver Star to wear to Wednesday’s announcement.

“Once you get them, you never wear them,” he said of the medals. “You don’t want to parade around and show off. But now I have a reason to put them on.”

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