Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Patch

Today is Veteran's Day, and we celebrated in an unusual way at Kandahar Air Field. We had a ceremony during which the members of the 10th Mountain Division were officially awarded their wartime service patch, or as it's commonly called, the "combat patch." Normally, a Soldier wears the patch representing the unit to which he/she is assigned on the left shoulder. After serving with that unit in a combat zone, the Soldier is authorized to wear that unit's patch on the right shoulder for the remainder of th Soldier's career. Thus, wearing a patch on the right shoulder is the sign that a Soldier is a combat veteran. The Army is the only US military service that observes this tradition.
The official patch of the 10th Mountain Division is displayed to the right. The red, white, and blue colors reflect the national colors of the USA. The shape of a patch is meant to evoke a powder keg, which symbolizes the explosiveness of the division's soldiers. The crossed bayonets symbolize the Infantry, the core fighting element of the division, and the shape of the bayonets forms an X, also representing the Roman numeral for 10. And the main patch is paired with a "MOUNTAIN" tab, denoting it as the only such division in the Army.
My brass quintet was providing music for the ceremony, and we played a couple of marches as introductory music. (This also served as an attempt to prevent the Division Command Sergeant Major from another rendition of "Friends In Low Places." Don't ask me what prompted that!) After playing the NATO Hymn, we waited while the Division Commander, MG Terry, gave a speech about the significance of the occasion. We then began playing "America the Beautiful" while combat patches were placed on the youngest officer, warrant officer, NCO, and enlisted soldier, and a Canadian soldier who represented the international force. Then leaders of various units began moving to give patches to the other Soldiers in their units. To our surprise, the Division and HQ Battalion command staff moved to give patches to the members of the quintet--while we were playing! (We weren't expecting that to happen!) I had my spare patch in my right sleeve pocket, so as my presenter (I think it was Battalion Commander LTC Bennett, but I can't be sure) approached, I waited until there was a spot in the music where I wasn't playing anything critical, quickly pulled the patch out of my pocket, handed it to him, and continued playing, trying hard not to move my upper right arm while manipulating the slide as he placed the patch on my shoulder. At least now I'll always remember getting my "combat patch" while playing "America the Beautiful."
And to any Veterans who happen to be reading this, many thanks for the sacrifices you made, and I am proud to be among your ranks!

1 comment:

  1. Jesse was telling about this on the phone. What a funny and not easily forgotten story! :D