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View Full Version : Wearing wings when you're not a pilot or a veteran


ThelmaLou
01-07-2011, 12:11 PM
Tell me if I'm overreacting.

I met some friends for breakfast this morning. One of our group, a man in his 70's (we're all over 55) came in wearing a leather jacket that his lady friend got him from ebay. On the left breast was a velcro patch with pilot's wings. I don't know if this was an authentic military jacket or a knock-off, but it looked authentic to me.

I said I would never wear something like that unless I was or had been a military pilot. The guy got a little miffed, but just shrugged me off, which was okay.

This is my thinking: people work long and hard to earn the privilege of wearing those wings. My late husband was an army pilot (aside: He was awarded the Silver Star, and he had his wings made into a ring, which I happened to be wearing this morning), and the man I dated before I married was an Air Force pilot, also decorated. I was an Air Force brat, although my father was not a pilot (he was in electronics), but I do take military protocol possibly more seriously than someone who has never been around military people.

If my friend this morning had been a teenager, then no one would assume that those wings belonged to him. But as a mature- even elderly- man, the assumption would be made, and frankly, if I were he, I'd be embarrassed to wear them and I would feel like a faker and a fraud.

I'm not going to bring it up to him again, but I'm curious about whether y'all think I'm all wet and overly sensitive?

Gary T
01-07-2011, 12:52 PM
"I would never wear something like that unless I was or had been a military pilot."
>Okay by me, a sincere statement of personal perspective, with an understandable rationale, forged by your personal history. Whether someone accomodates your preference here probably depends on several factors, such as to what extent they agree/disagree with your take on it, how important (or not) it is to them, and how motivated they are to respect your wishes.

"You should never wear something like that unless you were or had been a military pilot."
>Not saying you said this, but for discussion this is where it could get messy. Presumably one could see those wings merely as decoration, not having the significance that you attach to them. Alternatively, one could see them as akin to an unearned medal. Unless there's a fairly universal perspective here (like there is for medals), probably best not to make a "should not" pronouncement.

It's important to you, you said something, he doesn't see it that way, you'll let it drop -- your approach seems reasonable to me.

The Second Stone
01-07-2011, 12:58 PM
I seem to recall the that a US court recently held the false valor laws about medals unconstitutional, so we are only talking about etiquette here. You don't wear military regalia without being in the military (and then wear it correctly!) or being in a play without being a douche. However, perhaps this guy didn't know what they meant. I wouldn't know what wings on a leather jacket meant with some guy at a party except having read your post.

Oakminster
01-07-2011, 01:08 PM
Be advised that not only pilots are allowed to wear wings. I was never a pilot, or even an officer, but I was designated as aircrew, and earned my permanent wings. When I was in, I think the requirement was that you had to complete two years of flight duty to earn permanent wings, but those two years could be spent as a pilot, navigator, aerial photographer (as I was), helicopter engineer/gunner, or other aircrew member.

Gary T
01-07-2011, 01:11 PM
I seem to recall the that a US court recently held the false valor laws about medals unconstitutional, so we are only talking about etiquette here. You don't wear military regalia without being in the military (and then wear it correctly!) or being in a play without being a douche.Yes, I didn't know there were such laws, I just had the impression that military folk are offended by those who wear medals they didn't earn themselves. In this case I can see a question of whether or not those wings are regalia. They're not a unique design used only by the military.

minor7flat5
01-07-2011, 01:37 PM
I think most ex-military folks would appreciate your point of view.

I have a very nice custom made horsehide A-2 from Flightsuits that I have worn for the past eight years. They provide jackets for military personnel and offer loads of cool (and expensive) patches for military jackets—for example, here's their Flying Tigers A-2 (http://www.gibson-barnes.com/Flying+Tigers+A-2/id/18/cat_id/18/prod_id/53/). I just wouldn't feel right wearing someone else's unit insignia, let alone wearing unearned wings.

I don't know what one goes through for wings, but I know from my navy days that similar uniform badges such as sub dolphins or surface warfare specialist take more than a year on board the ship to earn. Perhaps that's why I would feel uncomfortable wearing anything that wasn't mine on my jacket.

As a teenager, I did wear all kinds of military pins and junk on an old Vietnam-era Eisenhower jacket, so I think that my time in the military changed my opinion of this.

flyboy
01-07-2011, 02:55 PM
I can appreciate where the OP is coming from. I'm current Navy and I do wear wings. I know some buddies that would be a bit peeved by it (which I totally get), but as long as I got the feeling that the guy wasn't trying to pass himself off as an aviator, I 'd be fine with it. Tacky, you bet. Especially if the patch has a name below the wings. But if he's doing it solely because he likes the look of the jacket and patch... I can't complain about that.

Bridget Burke
01-07-2011, 03:16 PM
Be advised that not only pilots are allowed to wear wings. I was never a pilot, or even an officer, but I was designated as aircrew, and earned my permanent wings. When I was in, I think the requirement was that you had to complete two years of flight duty to earn permanent wings, but those two years could be spent as a pilot, navigator, aerial photographer (as I was), helicopter engineer/gunner, or other aircrew member.

My father was a Navigator in WWII & in the Cold War--with SAC; his Navigator wings came in two different designs. He left his original bomber jacket in France, the better to evade capture in 1943. But he didn't survive the Cold War.

So I take this stuff seriously. But, unless the Velcroed wings were exact replicas of any of the "official" designs, I wouldn't get bent out of shape.

Omar Little
01-07-2011, 03:20 PM
While I understand the OP's sentiment, her statements are bit disingenuous.

I said I would never wear something like that unless I was or had been a military pilot.

Yet further on, she herself admits to wearing wings:

My late husband was an army pilot (aside: He was awarded the Silver Star, and he had his wings made into a ring, which I happened to be wearing this morning)

Oakminster
01-07-2011, 03:23 PM
She's not admitting to wearing rings. She's admitting to wearing a ring made from her husband's wings. I assume said wings were melted down and reformed into her ring.

Omar Little
01-07-2011, 03:26 PM
She's not admitting to wearing rings. She's admitting to wearing a ring made from her husband's wings. I assume said wings were melted down and reformed into her ring.

I said a bit. Not full on. ;)

ThelmaLou
01-07-2011, 04:28 PM
I meant I would never wear/display the wings in the way they are meant to be worn as part of a uniform. I thought that was implied in my statement. My late husband gave me the ring. This is not the official military way to wear wings. If it were, he would never have asked me to wear the ring. Most people who comment on the ring think I'm a Harley enthusiast.

silenus
01-07-2011, 05:58 PM
Maybe they were these (http://www.bushwings.com/frontpag.html) wings.

In that case, he should wear them proudly!

RandMcnally
01-07-2011, 06:11 PM
I'm a vet with wings and while I'm proud of them and worked my ass off for them, I wouldn't be too upset if I saw someone else wearing some. I know sooner or later someone is going to ask them what they flew and, if they're honest at least, they'll say they never flew anything.

And that will make them look like a jackass.

Sailboat
01-07-2011, 06:28 PM
I am disappointed to learn this thread is about a patch on a jacket, and not actual wings (http://www.spirithalloween.com/images/spirit/products/processed/07045206.detail.a.jpg).