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Old 03-05-2010, 10:14   #1
Quiet Professional
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Clarksville, TN
Posts: 1,135

I wanted to put this here because the subject came up in another thread and I didn't want to hijack the post.

In 1974 ... I was a 22 year old 1LT on leave enroute to Korea, PCS from the Pathfinder Company, 101st Airborne Division. Stayed with my parents in Huntington Beach, CA . Went to Fort McArthur, a tiny little post in Los Angeles, just a few square blocks in size, I think it once housed a Nike Air Defense site. I wanted to buy jump wings, some other stuff. One room clothing sales store, maybe the size of a unit mail room. I asked for jump wings, the guy turned around, pulled out a drawer, inside was a light brown cardboard box full of plastic wrapped Army issue jump wings. "Twenty three cents" I bought two. Got a Pathfinder Badge? He looked around a few drawers, ("we don't get much demand for those here") pulled out another brown cardboard box of plastic wrapped Army issue Pathfinder Badges. "Seven cents." I bought a dozen just because they were so cheap (I used to stick them in the dash of my car, on notebooks, etc. because they were so rare and people would asked me what they were for).*

Finished shopping, went home. Tossed the insignia on the kitchen table. My father -- ex-Marine -- looked them over. "You damn Army wraplegs** look like Christmas Trees with all these badges." He unwrapped the jump wings. "Hey son, these are sterling silver!" I looked at them. Yup, U.S. Army issue sterling silver jump wings, selling at clothing sales for twenty three cents each.

I went back to Ft. McArthur, walked into clothing sales, and bought every one they had left, there were about 17 or 18 left in the brown box, each at twenty three cents each. Over the years I gave them to soldiers in my command who went to jump school, mailed some to people I knew who went to jump school, etc. I think I still have three in a fireproof box in the closet just in case one of my sons elect to go Airborne.

They are not shiny or polished, like the ones you see at Meyers, they are the same kind of dull silver and gray as the current Army issue; but instead of the words "1/20 silver filled" on the back of the current issue wings, they recite STERING SILVER in tiny all capitals text.

I still hold out hopes that maybe one day, at some out of the way basement of an old Army Fort (maybe a USAF Reserve Airbase) I find a brown cardboard box covered in dust and containing more sterling silver jump wings.

So if you ever go to an out of the way military post or facility, swing by the clothing sales store and see what they have. You might be surprised.


*"Hey man, what's that torch badge for?"
- "Oh that, the Army gave it to me for running with the torch for the Olympics."
- "Oh that, it's the Lithuanian Firefighters Award, Third Class."
- "Oh that, that was for Fire Guard of the Year while at Basic Training at Ft. Polk."

** "Wraplegs" = My father's inevitable rendering of my Army career prior to law school, when notwithstanding the fact that I was Airborne Ranger Pathfinder, Special Forces, and commanding an A Team, I was "infantry." And apparently when he was in the Corps, the lowest of the low were "infantry" Marines who in the olden days had leg wrappings as a part of their uniform. Of course, even graduation for law school didn't improve my status after the branch transfer "My son the wrapleg is now a damn lawyer. Just what we need, another damn lawyer in the military."
[But always said with a smile and with a mixture of love and pride].
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