Many civilians do not know the tradition of the combat patch. This is a patch placed on a soldier’s right shoulder. I realize that my Daughter’s unit should be handing out wartime or “combat” patches and I thought I’d offer a little primer on something that most Army soldiers know about in this day and age.
In the Army’s regulatory language
Shoulder sleeve insignia-former wartime service (SSI–FWTS)
a. General. Authorization to wear a shoulder sleeve insignia indicating former wartime service applies only to soldiers who are assigned to U.S. Army units that meet all the following criteria. Soldiers who were prior members of other Services that participated in operations that would otherwise meet the criteria below are not authorized to wear
the SSI–FWTS. Wear is reserved for individuals who were members of U.S. Army units during the operations.
(1) The Secretary of the Army or higher must declare as a hostile environment the theater or area of operation to which the unit is assigned, or Congress must pass a Declaration of War.
(2) The units must have actively participated in, or supported ground combat operations against hostile forces in which they were exposed to the threat of enemy action or fire, either directly or indirectly.
(3) The military operation normally must have lasted for a period of thirty (30) days or longer. An exception may be made when U.S. Army forces are engaged with a hostile force for a shorter period of time, when they meet all other criteria, and a recommendation from the general or flag officer in command is forwarded to the Chief of Staff, Army.
What all that really means is that a soldier may put a patch on their right shoulder for providing service that takes them into a hostile foreign land and lays down a whole year away from family, friends, civilian pursuits and leisure pursuits.
The danger in the wartime service is evident when you look at the number of soldiers we mourn today from operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Take nothing away from this deployment and these soldiers. They face incoming rockets and the threat of [roadside bombs] on a daily basis, and remember, success or importance of a mission is not calculated by number of soldiers lost in the mission. Each soldier here is fulfilling a duty, serving their country and being a part of history.
So many soldiers go through a brief ceremony after a period in country which goes something like Attention to orders, “Having proven themselves under enemy fire while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, (these soldiers) are hereby awarded the unit combat patch forevermore to be worn on the right sleeve in testimony of their selfless service.”
With the patch – the soldier so presented has a significant symbol of the fact that the nation honors them, fellow soldiers honor them, and that’s why they are given a patch to remember forevermore that they were a part of a combat or wartime service effort and sacrifice. I hope that the newest members of the Army receiving a combat patch reflect on the sentiment of thanks that this old soldier notes with the passing of that small patch of cloth.