Did you know that soldiers have been wearing military patches since the 19th century? It’s no secret that patches hold a lot of meaning to those serving today, so understanding the meaning of each patch is crucial.
So what are the different types of military patches? How do you know which and why they are so important?
That’s what we’re here to look at today. Read on to find out more about the different types of patches prevalent in today’s military.
History of Patches in the American Military
Patches were first introduced to American soldiers by British soldiers in the 1800s. It wasn’t, however, until the Civil War that the U.S. military really began adopting the use of patches.
British soldiers mostly provided patches to higher-ranked officers. American soldiers used patches to delineate rank among all soldiers. As such, patches became a quick and easy way to communicate rank and expertise.
As the United States became more industrialized, so did patch production. The Army’s 81st division created the first ever tactical patch in World War I, paving the way for more unique patches down the line.
Patches grew beyond just showing a soldier’s rank. It also identified their division. For example, an infantryman would have their role printed on their patch. Medics would have red crosses printed on their patch.
Soldiers who showed expertise and mettle in the field would also receive patches recognizing their contribution. While World War II patches were more colorful, they became more subdued as the decades wore on.
Different Types of Military Patches
Now that we understand some of the histories behind military patches, let’s discuss some of the different types of military patches. Let’s start with name patches.
When you’re given your military uniform, you receive a patch that displays your last name. These are worn on the right side of the uniform.
Name patches are embroidered to be easily viewed from afar by your peers or by higher-ranking officers. It’s one of the key identification pieces for military personnel.
Unit patches are generally worn by deployed soldiers who are in combat zones or anywhere engaging in active warfare. These spots authorize camouflage, so unit patches show the unit or division that a soldier is in.
These patches often contain some sort of artwork that helps identify each soldier’s unit. Unit patches aren’t specific to those currently deployed, as veterans and soldiers out of war zones often wear them.
You’ll typically find unit patches on the left shoulder of anyone actively serving in war zones. They’re easy ways for veterans or soldiers to show which units they’ve served in the past.
Insignia patches are one of the most important pieces on any military uniform. They show which branch of the military a soldier is currently serving.
It shows whether someone is serving in the navy, air force, army, coast guard, or even the space force. You’ll typically find insignia patches on soldiers’ lefthand breast pockets.
Some would say that the rank patch is the most important patch on any given uniform. It shows a soldier’s status or rank. As you might’ve guessed, a soldier’s rank changes often, so it’s important to have the right patch.
Once someone’s rank changes, they receive a new patch with different insignia and characteristics. In short, rank patches are crucial ways to show your status, expertise, and experience in any given military branch.
Ensign patches for American soldiers are worn by all uniformed military members, as it displays the national flag. It serves as a memorial to all who served and signifies what each soldier is fighting for.
It’s interesting to note that the flag soldiers wear in the U.S. is facing the opposite direction on their right shoulder. This is intentional. It’s supposed to show a flag being carried forward by a soldier.
The flags on these patches used to be full-colored, but in recent years have been altered to be more muted. This is to fit the camouflage inherent in the uniforms that soldiers wear.
These patches are for those who went above and beyond the call of duty while in service. Different branches of the U.S. military allow their members to swap warfare pins for tabs patches, or OCP patches.
This indicates that someone was hand-selected for special training programs due to going above and beyond their duties. These patches are placed on the left shoulder, above the unit patch.
They’re made out of the same woven materials as the standard-issue camouflage uniforms. You often see specific designations on these patches, such as Special Forces.
So Why Are They So Important?
The easy answer to this question is that it shows a soldier’s rank and other pieces of their identity. Patches definitely serve many functional purposes, but it’s important to recognize something else.
Patches show a soldier’s expertise and skill. It provides context to their years of service on top of just their name and rank. Patches also allow others to honor veterans’ service whenever they wear them.
If you’re looking for a reliable place to purchase patches for your unit or for someone else, click for Morale Patches to find out more.
Understanding Military Patches
Military patches have been around for centuries and carry a lot of meaning for current and former service members. Use this guide to help you understand what each patch means when choosing them for yourself.
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