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Wearing an Ancestor's Medals Mega-thread

Edward Campbell

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I think the custom began in the UK circa 1920 when the widows and children of those killed in action took to wearing their medals on Remembrance Sunday.

I’m pretty sure this issue was raised here in Canada in the 1950s with the same intent – widows/children of those killed in action could wear their medals once per year - and I believe the idea was soundly rejected by the widows.

But ideas hang around and change a bit. Now we have people wanting to wear Uncle Fred’s medals because … well, just because.

I guess I have a dog in this fight – I have my father’s medals tucked away somewhere, and my sons will, likely put my few away in some drawer a few years from now – even as the elder wears his own. I side with those widows, way back when, but it is a personal thing, not a matter of principle. If someone changes the law I will not be terribly disappointed – even though I will wonder if the person wearing the medals has any remote idea about what they might signify.

I agree, in principle, with TCBF, as I discover I do on so many issues, but Michael O’Leary is correct: times change and so do customs; we can all live with change even if we don’t like it very much.

Finally, time passes, wounds heal; the awful sharp pains of burying a son, losing a beloved husband fifty years too soon or missing a father one never got to know all change to dull, steady aches; time acts as a balm. Remembrance is never easy and it is intensely personal. On 11 November only a small, select few “remember” – most of the rest just, maybe, think a bit about what they have and how and with whose lives it was bought.

Medals don’t really matter much – not even the good ones – except to help us remember a live lived and, too often, a sacrifice made. You can look at them, touch them, think about what experiences they might represent but, unless they were presented to you, you cannot live through them.

 

1feral1

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One day Canada will catch up to the rest of us. Wearing medals from one's NOK on the RIGHT is  legal, recognised, and an excellent way of rememberance in Australia. A custom and tradition in ANZAC which is carried on to this day by young and old, closing the gap in generations of all Vets/families of Vets from all conflicts. It brings us all together sucessfully every ANZAC Day and 11 Nov. It helps keep that ANZAC spirit alive in every single Australian, and I am proud to be part of this tradition.

I think the current Canadian laws are outdated and harsh.

It works here, so it can work there, with proper education and publicity.

Just my opinion of course.

OWDU
 

TCBF

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E.R. Campbell said:
I think the custom began in the UK circa 1920 when the widows and children of those killed in action took to wearing their medals on Remembrance Sunday.

I’m pretty sure this issue was raised here in Canada in the 1950s with the same intent – widows/children of those killed in action could wear their medals once per year - and I believe the idea was soundly rejected by the widows.

But ideas hang around and change a bit. Now we have people wanting to wear Uncle Fred’s medals because … well, just because.

I guess I have a dog in this fight – I have my father’s medals tucked away somewhere, and my sons will, likely put my few away in some drawer a few years from now – even as the elder wears his own. I side with those widows, way back when, but it is a personal thing, not a matter of principle. If someone changes the law I will not be terribly disappointed – even though I will wonder if the person wearing the medals has any remote idea about what they might signify.

I agree, in principle, with TCBF, as I discover I do on so many issues, but Michael O’Leary is correct: times change and so do customs; we can all live with change even if we don’t like it very much.

Finally, time passes, wounds heal; the awful sharp pains of burying a son, losing a beloved husband fifty years too soon or missing a father one never got to know all change to dull, steady aches; time acts as a balm. Remembrance is never easy and it is intensely personal. On 11 November only a small, select few “remember” – most of the rest just, maybe, think a bit about what they have and how and with whose lives it was bought.

Medals don’t really matter much – not even the good ones – except to help us remember a live lived and, too often, a sacrifice made. You can look at them, touch them, think about what experiences they might represent but, unless they were presented to you, you cannot live through them.

Overwatch Downunder said:
... Just my opinion of course.
OWDU

- The two of you have now got me re-assessing my stand on this.  One of the great things about this site.
 

axeman

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Well thats just great ..  Some A$$ hat whos never served a day but joined the legion  says i cant do something..  After 20 Yrs service i can say S##w you Unless your rack is bigger then mine of NON Legion medals  .. As a member of the legion ive been fighting this crap for years .. Ancestors of mine fought in numerous armies in various countries on both sides of the Boer War , WW1 and 2 . another friend dad went to Stalingrad and back in the Wehrmacht. He was a fairly out spoken person  when it came to joining the army.But after i joined he had a long talk with me . If my friend wants to wear his dads medals  i say let him His dad paid in full for them . On Remebrance Day  we gather to remeber the fallen on all sides and pay our repects to them . In wearing them we remember them ...
 

mainerjohnthomas

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TCBF said:
- In Canadian context, by law and tradition, decorations are worn ONLY by the persons to which they were awarded.  No other.  No right chest, shoulder backs or bums.  There are good and sound reasons for this. 

- I would, if in an official capacity to do so, frog-march ANYONE away from a cenotaph on Nov 11 if I knew them to be wearing medals they were not awarded.  I wold also lay a complaint under the Revised Statutes of Canada, whether in an official capacity or not.  Want to see medals on your daughter's chest? Send her off to the local CFRC, we can use more good people.

My daughters may be able to outshoot some recruits, but as none are out of elementary school, CFRC Sinclair can wait a few years before getting its fourth generation in service.
 

YYC Retired

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Having attended countless ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day services as a kid and as a soldier in Australian Army, I was very pleased to see the legacy of those who sacrificed so much for that great country remembered and honoured by their children and grand-children…..

The practice is, IMHO, a fantastic one. The number of kids wearing medals on their cubs, scouts, brownies uniform or plain clothes ,was increasing each year prior to my leaving. My mates and I were all very pleased to see this, It meant to us that the younger generation were developing an interest in Australia’s proud military history and I’m sure most who read these forums would agree, that’s a good thing.

Really, If they want to wear them….. where’s the harm???
 

Michael OLeary

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YYC Retired said:
Really, If they want to wear them….. where’s the harm???

And how many more medal groups will then remain with families for generations because their importance is better understood? 

 

1feral1

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Michael O`Leary said:
And how many more medal groups will then remain with families for generations because their importance is better understood? 

Good point Mick. All the more reason for someone to keep them in the family.

Cheers,

Wes
 

axeman

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TCBF said:
- In Canadian context, by law and tradition, decorations are worn ONLY by the persons to which they were awarded.  No other.  No right chest, shoulder backs or bums.  There are good and sound reasons for this. 

AND what are they as a legionare  after may months waiting for a reply there are none othere then a standard of display. which we have pretty much agread apon for ansestors right hand side  yours on the left.

- I would, if in an official capacity to do so, frog-march ANYONE away from a cenotaph on Nov 11 if I knew them to be wearing medals they were not awarded.  I wold also lay a complaint under the Revised Statutes of Canada, whether in an official capacity or not.  Want to see medals on your daughter's chest? Send her off to the local CFRC, we can use more good people.

TCBF .... ROTS O RUCK . on the frog marching my friend  by birth is a dual citizen, so unless you can provide him with german police ID I'm pretty sure he'd sort you out on it [ hes not in the CF you see] . As to trying to frog march a few of my friends  who not only have THEIR  medals and their  relatives  would have no worries as to telling where you could put your bayonet.  Remberance Day is the day the ancestors medals should be brought out and displayed . :salute: I think the only persons who could get your views  enforced  on my circle of friends are persons like General  Hiilier ret or  General Lesilie [sp]. I do not mean to be overly aggresive  but  think of what the day means , not just to you but others .
 

childs56

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TCBF
I would love to see you do that to the Widow, Father, Mother, Daughter or son of a member who recently Died in Afganistan. Who were wearing them on the right hand side as a sign of Rememberance for their lost one.
We could see who would be made a donkey of themselves and then frog marched off from the Cenotaph.

The laws original intention was to discourage those who otherwise did not earn the Medals from claimimg them as their own. As with current times some have passed unearned Medals off as their own, yet no one has been charged with a crime.
Make it clear and advertize that the wearing of Medals on the right hand side is a reflection of your familys past. This will help encourage younger people to learn about what sacfices were made so we could live in our
country. 
 

1feral1

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TCBF said:
- The two of you have now got me re-assessing my stand on this.  One of the great things about this site.

TCBF is only expressing his opinion, and as much as I don't agree with him (for NOK wearing on the right), what we have said has impacted on this thoughts. I beleive what we do here makes sense, and helps the public understand by directly being involved by the public display of NOK medals.

I guess you would perhaps have to see this in action here on 25 Apr especially, as thats our day, but its not a sombre day like 11 Nov is in Canada, here ANZAC Day is about celebrating mateship, victory, remembering our fallen, and then there is some type of undescribeable invisible spirit, plus other things. Its also about the birth of a nation and the ANZAC spirit which was born of the craggy shores of Gallipoli almost 100 yrs ago.

Australia has what I would call a 180 degree different look towards their Defence Force (and their military history as a whole) as Canada has. I cannot discribe it. On ANZAC Day I have never seen more national pride expressed puiblically in my life, and in one day, I seen more of this than my entire life in Canada.

For any Canadian who has been in Australia on 25 Apr, you would agree to this.

If anyone wears medals on the left that are not earned, I stand behind his train of thought. There are laws here too which makes this an offence.

OWDU
 

Doug VT

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I've had to deal with this on a number of occasions.  Both personally, and for others. 

When I was younger, I received all of my Maternal Grandfathers medals, they were kept in an old box in the attic, still in their original little white boxes with a little piece of ribbon accompanying them.  I had them mounted and I still have them now. 

When I was in my first year in the reserves, I had heard that you could wear them on the right side for Remembrance Day.  I researched this fully, and of course came to the conclusion that this was false.

Of course I was disappointed at the time, but I've long gotten over it.  I would hazard a guess that most of the people felt done wrong by this just want to wear them cause it's "cool" and are just trying to convince themselves that they have a more noble reason.  I know, I've seen it and been there myself.
I'm not accusing anyone of anything, just ask yourself what the real reason for wanting to wear them is.
I personally do not agree with anyone wearing a medal they didn't earn themselves.  That being said, I would never ask or comment on a widow or close family member wearing their deceased soldiers medals.

I used to want a bunch of medals, but as I grew older, and I would like to think wiser, I don't really care anymore.  Medals don't really mean anything anymore, if anything, I only receive them to pass them on to my children.  They jazz up the uniform, that's all.  Maybe for those with big heads, a measure of bragging rights maybe? 

People are always worried about medals, there are much more important things to worry about.  When I was on my first tour in Afghanistan, there was a great discussion on the "new" campaign star and how the PSP were getting the same medal.  They were all upset because ours should be better somehow, to denote the fact that we were soldiers.  The whole discussion was ridiculous, it's not a competition.  Anyway, sorry about going off on a bit of a rant there.

Either way, I agree with the present laws.  Not because I think it should be illegal, but it is fundamentally wrong to do.

The Australians practice in a way that they can only wear relatives medals on specific occasions.  If that's what they want to do, who am I to judge?  They have specifically stated when, where, and who can practice this.

I especially agree with Mr Campbell's closing statement about only the person whom earned it knows really what it's worth.
 

Michael OLeary

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Doug said:
When I was in my first year in the reserves, I had heard that you could wear them on the right side for Remembrance Day.  I researched this fully, and of course came to the conclusion that this was false.

Of course I was disappointed at the time, but I've long gotten over it.  I would hazard a guess that most of the people felt done wrong by this just want to wear them cause it's "cool" and are just trying to convince themselves that they have a more noble reason.  I know, I've seen it and been there myself.
I'm not accusing anyone of anything, just ask yourself what the real reason for wanting to wear them is.
I personally do not agree with anyone wearing a medal they didn't earn themselves.  That being said, I would never ask or comment on a widow or close family member wearing their deceased soldiers medals.

I've quoted the above passage not to focus on his words specifically for debate, but to highlight the fact that we all have different images of who might be choosing to wear their ancestor's medals, and why.

Doug mentions the possibility of doing so as a young soldier, reflects upon the "wearing of medals one hasn't earned" and then moves on to discuss widows and close family members.  I think the perception of some one "wearing of medals one hasn't earned" is tripping up this discussion, it is that image which brings us back to the idea of deception, and detracts from focusing on whether or not this can be done in an honourable fashion.

To me, examples of situations that make this a reasonable option for future change would be these:

- a young person wearing a (great) grandfather's First or Second War medals, and the family using this opportunity to teach that youth about the family's role in their country's history and the importance of Remembrance Day ceremonies; thus making the act of remembrance personal in a way that also brings a minor but participatory role to the otherwise casual observer of a ceremony

- or the wife or child of a recent casualty, perhaps one still seeking to emphasize their connections with that soldier and his sacrifice

We will never completely avoid those who would take any change and use it in abuse of custom or fashion.  But the value that might be gained from a twelve-year-old girl proudly wearing her grand-father's medals to honour and remember him should not be overshadowed by the image of some dope hanging three generations of medals all over his jacket just because he can.  Regardless, bringing these medals into a public light, even only once per year, could help to refocus Remembrance Day on the fallen, rather than on the living veteran in its increasingly liberal definition.

 

geo

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here ANZAC Day is about celebrating mateship, victory, remembering our fallen, and then there is some type of undescribeable invisible spirit, plus other things. Its also about the birth of a nation and the ANZAC spirit which was born of the craggy shores of Gallipoli almost 100 yrs ago.

It's not like we don't have VIMY to celebrate - where the Canadian corp fought together for the 1st time AND where Canada came together as a nation.
 

Doug VT

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I have to agree with Mike.  Of course there are purely noble reasons out there to see this through.  Unfortunately, there are far too many less then noble intentions out there.

Does this have any harmful effect on anyone?  Really?  I don't think so.  It all really comes down to individuals perception.

Some want to wear them because they are so very proud and want to display them in an honourable fashion in the appropriate venue.

Some want to wear them purely because they can, and it makes them stand out.  These people will invariably push the limits and add more then the permitted accoutrement's.  Thus, as described by Mike, "some dope hanging three generations of medals all over his jacket"

Some who have had nothing "passed down" will no doubt be somewhat opposed to the practice, because others will have more flash then them, or it makes them feel inferior....on the one day a year that they wear their DEU.

Military accoutrement's have always been a touchy subject, always some controversy associated with a little bit of metal.

Reminds me of one piece of metal which met it's demise....the "Warrior" badge.  How long did it last?  3 years? All because of hurt feelings and unit manipulated standards criteria.
 

TCBF

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Doug said:
 ...on the one day a year that they wear their DEU. ...

- Remember when CUA was needed because we actually wore our CFs/DEUs out? DEU was Dress of the Day.  FSOD/Cbt Clo was for the field only.  After they realized that we were going through our stocks of expensive Cbt Clo at a rapid rate, Work Dress was invented.  Cheaper than both Combats and CFs.

- Point being, we saw the ribbon bars on our peers on an almost daily basis.  One's eyes automatically took in Rank/Face/Regt/Ribbons at first encounter.  There were still many Korea and a few WW2 ribbons around back then.  I think we were raised in a system where that status was constant.

- I find the ANZAC solution an interesting one, particularly regarding it's role in encouraging education and the retention of medals by families.

- My previous 'frogmarch' comments now appear to me to be inappropriate.

- Anyone know what the American policy is?
 

reccecrewman

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A general concensus among Canadian service personnel and would be it is not on to wear medals you yourself did not earn. I wouldn't wear either of my Grandfather's racks, nor would I want to even if Canadian law permitted me to do so....... I didn't earn them. Nor would I care to see my medals on any of my children or grandchildren.... hanging up in a shadowbox in my son's home after I die is where they belong. My .02 anyhow
 

Michael OLeary

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reccecrewman said:
A general concensus among Canadian service personnel and would be it is not on to wear medals you yourself did not earn. I wouldn't wear either of my Grandfather's racks, nor would I want to even if Canadian law permitted me to do so....... I didn't earn them. Nor would I care to see my medals on any of my children or grandchildren.... hanging up in a shadowbox in my son's home after I die is where they belong. My .02 anyhow

For the moment, let's set aside the issue of wearing ancestor's medals on uniforms. Even if the Canadian Government authorized the wear of "ancestor's medals" on civilian dress for Remembrance Day, wearing them on uniforms is a separate CF dress issue.

Also, I think the point here is that you wouldn't see them worn by your own child or grandchild.  If you're around to see that, you'd be wearing them yourself.


 
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