TACOMA, Wash. — Mark Watson, a local teacher and recently retired Army colonel, was surprised to learn that the black, cheaply-made veteran ball caps denoting branch, wartime service, and military medals were not mandatory, sources report.
“It was the strangest thing,” said Watson. “A few weeks after my discharge I still hadn’t received it in the mail. I figured there might be some confusion because maybe my records were out of order, and they wanted to get it right before sewing everything on.”
Watson explained that he called his transition officer after several months and asked when he could expect to receive the headgear so he could begin to use the military facilities on-post, according to those familiar with the situation.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” Watson explained to Duffel Blog. “But meat is cheaper at the commissary so I was looking forward to saving some money.”
When the officer told Watson that the headgear wasn’t an issued item, he was stunned.
“They were just so stupid looking I had always assumed they were forced to wear them. Why else would you wear something that lets everyone know you received an Army Achievement Medal twenty years ago?” Watson asked. “I mean who the hell cares? You don’t see guys with silver stars or MoH’s [Medal of Honor] parading around.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs actually asserts that in some case there may be an inverse correlation between how much flair is on a veteran cap, and the quality of the wearer's military service.
Those at the highest end of the spectrum, spending upwards of $500 on medals and other accoutrements, are often found to have not served at all, while those on the other end, who did not even purchase the hats, tended to have a more impressive military career.
Friends report that Watson has begun shopping at the local PX, while deciding not to purchase a veteran ball cap.
He is still waiting for his Purple Heart license plates from the DMV.