The first time we posted some of our favorite morale patches, readers responded with their own and gave us more than enough fodder to present a sequel.
This time we asked Air Force veteran Julio Medina, who's the founder of Morale Patch Armory, why these moto patches endure in popular military culture – even when a command may not fully appreciate them.
"Morale patches are a simplistic form of art that most people can relate to in some way or another," Medina says. "Whether it's humorous or something that will make you embrace your inner patriot, morale patches send strong messages."
The Latin in the patch above means "not worth a rat's ass." During the Vietnam War, troopers who ferreted out Viet Cong insurgents hidden in complex subterranean hideouts became known as "Tunnel Rats." These brave servicemen had to dodge human enemies, animals (like bats), and potentially deadly gasses — not to mention VC booby traps. The story alone makes for a great patch.
The DICASS (Directional Command Activated Sonobuoy System) sends submariners range and bearing data via and FM frequency.
Medina also talked about the elements of a good morale patch.
"Relevance, clean design, and a clear message are key factors in a successful morale patch drop," he says. "There are some amazingly talented artists out there, but unless you have the ability to get relevant eyes on the patch, it will start collecting dust no matter how good it is."
A Combat Search and Rescue patch. Old timers know a similar patch with Elvis on it. This patch, for a new generation, features Tupac.
"Military active duty, veterans, and law enforcement are the largest consumer base," Medina says. "There are quite a few airsoft players in that bunch, too. I'm sure none of these groups come as a surprise. There are so many different styles of patches out there."
"Tastes like chicken," in case you don't speak Latin.
The patch above is for the USAF's 509 Operations Group, which pilots the B-2A Spirit stealth bombers out of Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. The chicken is a reference to an old Twilight Zone episode where aliens start to eat people. Most of you will probably get the Simpsons reference better.
"FIGMO": aka "F*ck It, Got My Orders" – Vietnam-era aviator patches
Medina believes the enduring popularity of morale patches comes from how they poke fun at the mundane or at high-stress situations. The common denominator is the camaraderie built from shared experiences – the tension and hard times that troops go through as a cohesive unit.
"Military members of all branches deal with common military-related stressors day in and day out that the average individual may not even experience in a lifetime," Medina says.
A patch commemorating an aviation unit's participation in the second battle of Fallujah
"Morale patches are key to lightening the mood by making things funny ... making you feel like a proud American, just the way you felt when you graduated basic training and became a part of something bigger than yourself," Medina explained.
Morale patches have always been an interest for Medina. As a former enlisted Air Force Security Forces airman, Medina kept his own collection of quirky patches since 2007.
"I kept seeing really creative patches being made and sold by hobbyists," Medina recalls. "As opposed to the few mainstream brands in the industry that sell mass quantities of a single design."
That's how Medina started his own patch business. His passion for the industry combined with his appreciation of the humor and artistry led him to establish Morale Patch Armory.
"I once heard 'Love what you do, and you'll never work a day in your life,' " Medina says. "Since the inception of Morale Patch Armory, every day has been fun and exciting even through the toughest challenges."
Be sure to check out the Morale Patch Armory to get your unit's patch going.