As members of the military we have a certain level of pride about our career fields, our branch, and our military accomplishments.
The common thing to do upon retirement is to piece together your “I love me wall” to share your history with friends and family when they visit your home. Often, we show our pride with decals, morale shirts, hats, and even tattoos.
Admittedly, I display a decal on my SUV that I had produced to show my pride as a Defender. I like that it is low key and only those who know what it is will recognize it. It is a 3 ½ x 3 ½ inch decal of the falcon with its talons gripping the runway, the exact image shown on our beret flash. No words, just the falcon.
Since 9/11 we have reduced our collective signatures to an extent, but with a decade and a half of new combat veterans, a lot of that showmanship has resurfaced.
DoD got rid of the base decals we grew up with and many commands encourage their military members to not travel to and from base in uniform – these are all subtle yet effective antiterrorism measures. However, the same measures we’ve taken to draw less attention, many reverse by decorating their personal vehicles with stickers or vanity license plates that clearly tell a story.
From custom made ribbon racks to state issued specialty tags, it has become a wide spread and self-induced banner that shows who you are, what you do or what you’ve done, and possibly where you work. There are things about us we can’t change. Throughout my 23 years of service people have been quick to say “you’re in the military, aren’t you?” Of course I am. I have a military regulation haircut, I stand tall, roll my shoulders back and simply put, I fit the profile.
From what I discussed above, is it necessarily bad? I don’t think so – not at all, really. But as a career security professional and the antiterrorism program manager, I can’t help but think that limiting our pride banners may make sense.
As a police officer, on more than one occasion, I ran into people I arrested who often thought it was my fault they went to jail or lost their driver’s license.
Rarely do you find police officers wearing a t-shirt with POLICE on the back, unless they’re on the job, armed up, and clearly want to be identified as law enforcement.
Perhaps that’s a good practice we should enlist as Defenders. Ultimately, the choice is yours, so I ask that you be proud of your story, but be cautious of the story you tell.
If I were going to break into a car hoping to find a firearm, I’d probably choose the car with the thin blue line, NRA, or FOP sticker over a car with an “I support Greenpeace” sticker.
By SMSgt Pete Bowden,
Air National Guard Security Forces
Above, you’ll find a collage of pictures of actual license plates that I’ve taken since living in the National Capital Region, with the exception of one. One of them was taken in Tampa, just outside of MacDill AFB. Can you guess which one?