Veteran’s Day 2019

Today I took my pickup in for a routine oil change and was given an additional two dollar discount because I was a servicemember and it was Veteran’s Day. I then went to Dollar Tree and spent two dollars on drinks for my elder son and myself. He got a “Chicago Style Root Beer” and I got a Rip It.

The Rip It energy drink is the unofficial energy drink for the “Global War on Terror.” The company has played off this and release tribute drinks, and I hope they continue to make their fine product for many years to come. After all, when I was in Iraq and Afghanistan, I found that a Rip It or two was often just the liquid motivation to get the brain doing the braining, so the soldier could do the soldiering. Lots of coffee too, and cigars on occasion, with dip as needed.

What was interesting is that the young fella who came out to ask what I needed before directing me to pull into bay three assumed I was a veteran because he glanced over at the passenger seat where my barely used M-65 field jacket lay. I’d been camping with my boys Friday evening to Sunday morning, and that old field jacket is great for camping. It’s in the woodland camouflage pattern, which ceased to be authorized for wear more than a decade ago. It’s funny but for the bulk of my career the field jacket hasn’t been that much of a comfort item because everyone got issued a Gortex parka from the central issue facility. When the Army finally gave the digital universal camouflage pattern the “kiss of death” for uniforms (but not issued gear) this year, the updated AR 670-1 regulation removed all references to the M-65 Field Jacket.

It’s kinda sad that the field jacket has left the inventory. Unlike the synthetic parkas and cold weather jackets we wear now, the M-65 was a bit more flame retardant, which is something that Soldiers appreciate. Heck, we had to do special issues of “Flame Retardant Army Combat Uniforms” aka “FRACUs” (pronounced Frack Yews) for deploying Soldiers to minimize their risk of body burn injuries from synthetic materials. And if you happened to be in an area where it was “bloody cold” you could always button in an actual field jacket liner and stay toasty (which is what I did this weekend when it dipped below freezing after sundown).

The field jacket isn’t a particularly stylish piece of kit, but it is functional, even if it is heavier than more modern lightweight synthetics. I remember reading in the book “The Guts to Try” about the disaster at Eagle One how the Delta operators war dark blue jeans and black field jackets. John Bernthal in his role as “The Punisher” wears a black field jacket, which was either a deliberate choice by the creative peoples to point to his past in “black ops” or because it looked cooler than woodland or MARPAT digital. Given Hollywood’s track record on authenticity my guess is “looked cooler.”  I guess that it is sort of how the “Dennison Smock” is associate with elite British units, like the Paras and SAS.

Black isn’t the only color associated with veterans. The Vietnam veterans came back with the original olive drab M-65 field jacket. The Desert Storm vets a combination of woodland, chocolate chip desert, and three color desert camo. The digital ACU pattern was the last issue camo on the M-65 of which I’m aware, but as far as I know the veterans of the “Global War on Terror” aren’t rocking that jacket for recognition.  A quick search and it turns out you can buy field jackets in all sorts of colors and camo patterns, some military issue and some clearly not.  I guess if I really wanted to mess with the Sergeant Major’s brain I could even purchase a new Operational Camouflage Pattern M-65 and get it set to the standard last published in AR 670-1. Although if I’m going to waste money on a pointless uniform purchase it will probably be on a set of “Pinks and Greens” when they come available. The wife mentioned that’s the uniform she wants me to wear for our 20th anniversary in a few years.

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