Patches are basically small pieces of woven fabric sewn on clothing. It used to be a simple patch- that is, a piece of fabric to cover large holes on garments. But not all patches are created equal. Some are special. Some patches are sort of like an insignia worn proudly on clothing. It is often used to denote membership or belongingness to a group. One of the most widely used special patches is military patches.
The military is a huge organization. It has 4 branches: army, navy, marine corps, and air force. These are further divided into smaller units such as corps, divisions, brigades, battalions, and so on. There are also collaborative groups within the military, where members from different divisions are picked to form one separate group. Often, groups of handpicked men and women operate on a per assignment basis. Their special group becomes operational when there is a need for them, like a certain mission. After the goal or goals are met, the group disbands and the soldiers go back to their respective units. In all these military units, personnel are identified by the military patches they wear.
Sewing patches on them is like wearing an ID out in the field. When things get a little bit confusing during combat, soldiers can still be able to pick out friendlies by looking at the patches. These are discreet identifications that can help distinguish friend from foe in the middle of combat. A look at small military patches on the right or left sleeve and one knows if the person is an ally or a foe.
The patches are worn on the soldier’s uniform. Soldiers actually have different sets of uniforms for various purposes: combat uniforms, garrison duty uniforms, and formal occasions. A person can pick out which division a soldier belongs to just by looking at their uniforms. To further give them recognition for their specific units, military patches are placed on their uniforms. The patches can be on the sleeves or over the breast pockets and shoulders. The patches further identify the soldier and which military branch and unit he belongs to.
Military patches have distinctive designs that provide the identity they intend to portray. The size and shape often denotes where it is worn. For example, short rectangular ones are often worn over the breast pockets. Larger ones are worn over the shoulders. Patches with shapes other than rectangles are often worn on the sleeves. The shape also gives a hint of what unit the soldier belongs to. An airplane in the Air Force, a ship in the Navy, etc. There are also words and images written on the patches. The words can be a motto, nickname of a unit, Latin words of virtues the unit upholds, etc.
These patches are also worn on dress uniforms. It may signify the position held by the soldier in the military’s hierarchy. Stripes, stars, V’s and some other symbols on the patches denote the rank and from what military branch and unit. A look at these patches and other soldiers would know who their officers are- the better to avoid awkward situations when soldiers mingle during an event or occasion.
These patches are worn by the military with pride. It is a symbol of their bravery and sacrifice. A reminder of what they signed up for- sacrificing their lives for the good of others and of the country. To the outsider, the patches may look very insignificant, with signs and symbols that seem to be gibberish. But to the men and women who wear them proudly on their clothes, these patches mean a whole lot more.