Since medieval times, men have adorned cloth on their arms to denote allegiance to a person, group or organization. These symbols are often a great source of pride for those who bear them.
The same goes for Boy Scouts of America members and service members in the United States military. To share one’s patch with another, even if within a similar organization, is a tradition and sign of respect to another.
With the pairing of both groups during the 2017 National Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve near Glen Jean, West Virginia July 19-28, 2017, the approximately 30,000 scouts, volunteers and military involved had ample opportunity to exchange stories, and naturally, patches.
July 21, 2017 - Spc. Dakota Sayre, a Soldier with the West Virginia Army National Guard's C Troop, 1-150th Cavalry, awards a Wounded Warrior Project patch to a boy scout during the BSA 2017 National Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve near Glen Jean, West Virginia. The 2017 National Jamboree is being attended by 30,000 Boy Scouts, troop leaders, volunteers and professional staff members, as well as more than 15,000 visitors. Approximately 1,200 military members from the Department of Defense and the U.S. Coast Guard are providing logistical support for the event. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Liem Huynh, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
“Scouts have been trading patches since the 1920s,” said Robert Hightower, a native of Palestine, Texas and Chairman of the Movie Making Merit Badge.
At that time, there wasn’t a lot of patch trading, but scouts would trade pinecones, shells and things that represented the area they were from.
It was about the same time that elements of the U.S. Army began to first design and sew patches on their uniforms. The famed 82nd Airborne Division, whose “Double A” patch was created in the early 20th Century, likewise was a representation of the unit’s story. In the division’s case, members of all then 48 states formed the unit.
Patch exchanges among scouts would replace objects gathered from nature when the organization hosted its first jamboree in 1937.
“At the first World (Scout) Jamboree, scouts traded uniform parts as mementos of the occasion, to meet other people and break the ice between two total strangers,” said Hightower. “Many would exchange names and addresses and become pen pals and that was the ultimate goal of trading - the friendship or the brotherhood aspect of it.”
While there are currently more than 135 merit badges that scouts can earn for completing various events, the actual number of current and historical patches representing individual scout troops is unknown.
The Illinois-based Blackhawk Area Council’s patch represents not just who they are, but also where they’re from and what they do.
“We have the “Pirates of the Carabiners” patch, which shows six main scouting activities and it’s really symbolic of our council,” said Timothy Hall, a native of Algonquin, Illinois and scout with the Blackhawk Area Council.
Much like the scouts, military patches carry the significance of the perspective units they represent. At Freedom Loop on the Summit Bechtel Reserve, scouts can earn and trade for the eight-piece U.S. Army Special Forces patch set from military members.
“The patch represents all of the U.S. Army Special Forces groups; five active and two National Guard,” said Mark Peters, the Chapter Organization Representative of the Special Operations Association for Chapter 100 and sponsor of Boy Scout Pack, Troop, and Crew 776 from Fort Bragg, N.C. “The center is the special forces crest, so it’s all centered around that.”
Just as scout and military patches carry significant meaning to those who are represented by them, the trading of patches also carries significance.
July 21, 2017 - A boy scout pins one of his patches to the Pin-a-Patch wall at the Summit Bechtel Reserve during the BSA 2017 National Jamboree near Glen Jean, West Virginia. The 2017 National Jamboree is being attended by 30,000 Boy Scouts, troop leaders, volunteers and professional staff members, as well as more than 15,000 visitors. Approximately 1,200 military members from the Department of Defense and the U.S. Coast Guard are providing logistical support for the event. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Liem Huynh, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
“We use our patch to trade for other patches from other councils to see what their council is like,” said Hall. “It’s a great way to talk to other scouts.”
For military members at the 2017 National Jamboree, patch trading with scouts is a means of giving them an introduction to activities and information that could inspire their decision to consider military service as a future career.
“For scouts, trading patches is a passion, so by having a military set it sparks interest in the military services,” said Peters.
Through the simple act of handing over a patch, military members and scouts create lasting relationships and inspiration for the future.
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Nassirian
Provided through DVIDS
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