June 25, 2014 - In what has become a tradition at Independence Township's Fourth of July festival in Clintonwood Park, veterans are invited to share photos, mementos, uniforms, and other items from their time in service.
I'll be there at the Carriage House with my bucket of stuff from my service in the U.S. Army during the first Gulf War back in 1991.
I have quite a spread, with photo albums, uniforms, books and magazines detailing Soviet military equipment from the 1980s, maps of southern Iraq, camouflage paint packed into green metal cylinders that look like something dangerous even though they're not, and various other items.
This is my third or fourth year doing this – I haven't been to Clarkston's Fourth of July parade in quite some time. I've heard it's quite nice.
My display in the park will hopefully be among many others, from World War II to more recent conflicts in the Middle East. They'll also have vintage military vehicles for people to look at, and maybe the radio controlled airplane folks will return with their miniature warplanes.
There will be one difference at my table, though.
In previous years, some of the Vietnam, Korea, and even World War II veterans would show up wearing their old uniforms. This was something I couldn't do, not since the early 90s. I kept them, though, and would use them when I try to lose some weight to see how far I needed to go.
I never quite got close enough to fit back into them, though, until last year. I finally stuck with a diet and exercise plan long enough to get back into army shape, so I'll be wearing my chocolate-chip-cookie-dough pattern desert camouflage uniform.
It's not the first time I've had them on in public recently. I've been wearing them at the comic and anime conventions I've been heading to lately. I had noticed younger folks wearing military duds at these things, for things like GI Joe and other characters, and figured, hey, I have that stuff. I'll make it a bit more official at the Fourth of July event, with my rank tabs back on where they're supposed to be.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.