Here's some food for thought: according to the Army Times, Sears has been officially licensed to use Army insignias on a new clothing line. Starting in October, you’ll be able pick up a T-shirt stamped with the famous Big Red One insignia of the 1st Infantry Division for about $12. Other more expensive Army-related apparel, including jackets, pants and sweaters, will soon follow. The chairman of the All American Army Brand, which is working with Sears and already has a licensing agreement with the Army, said part of the licensing fee will fund soldier and Army family programs.
Is it selling out or simply another way for citizens to show their support? It all depends on how you look at it.
It's no secret that the Army has long been contracting out everything from the bars of soap our soldiers use to the food they eat. In recent years, the presence of private companies within the Army has increased. Thirty years ago, you wouldn’t have seen a Burger King on post but these days, take a glance around any Army installation and you're sure to see at least a couple fast food joints. Contracts with companies like Burger King certainly have been important sources of revenue, and it could be argued they’re morale boosters for lonely soldiers stationed far from home. He or she at least has the comfort of eating a familiar Whopper.
So, considering the the direction things are headed in, perhaps the new clothing line is just the next logical step in the evolution of Army contracts. But where do we draw the line? Is it violating tradition to allow companies like Sears to manufacture items with the Army insignia?
“I think it’s a good idea, because it’s showing support,” said one soldier I asked, and I agree with him. In my opinion, the new clothing line has far more benefits than drawbacks. Yes, some people probably will object to average joes sauntering down the street sporting T-shirts emblazoned with the Army logo. Some may think the contract violates proud Army traditions, and that private companies shouldn’t be allowed to profit from this violation. And, to a certain extent, they’re probably right. But let’s look at the bigger picture here: what’s more important than logos and contracts is the active support from people who choose to wear the apparel.
Some people who purchase the clothes may not intend to make a statement, but by displaying the Army insignia prominently, consumers are indicating the Army is, for lack of a better term, cool. On top of that, part of the money they spent to buy the shirt will go back into the Army.
For every soldier out there who cries “sellout,” I’m sure there’s at least one who’s encouraged by the civilian support, and is proud that his or her family and friends can now literally wear their hearts on their sleeves.
At a time when so many people around the world dislike and mistrust our country and its armed forces, we should cheer on any and all support for our troops. Even if that support happens to come in the form of a $12 T-shirt from Sears.