A few days ago I was in the grocery store on my way to workout. I was wearing this shirt along with my black baseball hat that has a Marine Corps pin in it (I wear it most days).
A store employee stopped me and asked if I was a Marine. On the rare occasions someone asks me about a military shirt I’m wearing, I tell them I wear it in support of friends, so that’s what I said. He proceeded to explain that I didn’t have the right to wear the shirt since I didn’t earn it. He said his son was a Marine and I was insulting them and being disrespectful. I tried to explain but he was having none of it and just kept re-stating his position. He was quite cemented in his view. I left the store feeling awful, mostly because I was unprepared for the conversation and was disappointed in my own response. Nothing like that has ever happened before so I was caught off guard. I went looking for peanut butter and instead got a lecture from a stranger…and I didn’t respond correctly.
Let’s see….why do I have this shirt? Because a Marine asked me to post a photo wearing it…a Marine I was pen pals with through two deployments in Afghanistan. Where did the pin come from? A friend I met a the gym long ago, a Marine, who served in Vietnam. It happens to be something I treasure which is why it’s pinned to a hat I wear all the time. If you look at a couple of the photos I posted from my trip to Jamaica, you’ll see the same baseball hat. Where I go, it goes. I didn’t wear it on the plane ride over so I put it in my purse. I wasn’t about to check it in my luggage. I wouldn’t be happy if I lost my bathing suits and clothing but I’d be VERY upset if the airline lost my hat (and therefore my Marine Corps pin). I guard it carefully.
I’m sure somewhere in the world there might be a Marine who wouldn’t be happy to see me wearing my shirt or pin. I haven’t met him yet. I’m guessing this man’s son said he didn’t like to see people putting on Marine Corps stuff and pretending to be Marines. That would absolutely, rightfully be upsetting….to me too. Stolen valor is no joke and there are slimy people out there that get a kick out of pretending to be something they’re not.
The man was right about one thing. I didn’t earn those things but they were given to me by people who did so as far as I’m concerned I’m “walking on the right side of the law.”
The thing I re-learned from this is that no matter what there are people who will misunderstand you. They will express their opinion and they can’t be reasoned with. It’s not worth trying. It’s a waste of breath, brain bandwidth and precious time. Next time I’ll simply thank the person politely for “their unsolicited opinion,” turn my back and walk away.