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The Meanings Behind U.S. Military Lapel Pins

When you think about military lapel pins, you probably imagine the traditional pin shining with the insignia of a certain branch of the United States Military. Or maybe you picture the American flag pin your grandpa wears every time he leaves the house. 

No matter what you’re envisioning, odds are it can be traced back to actual U.S. military practices. In fact, there are hundreds of different types of pins the American military uses—from military rank pins to ceremonial pins. If you’re looking to honor someone with a military pin, read on to learn more about the different types and their meanings.

U.S. Military Lapel Pins

Perhaps the most well-known kind of pins are those depicting each branch of the United States Armed Forces. This tradition can be dated back to the Civil War, when soldiers were required to wear lapel pins showcasing their unit number. Since there were so many soldiers in some units, the only way they could identify each other was by using these numbers on their pins. 

Over time, this evolved into a tradition that now emphasizes loyalty and allegiance to a certain unit or branch. Today, not only veterans, but even their family members wear lapel pins with Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard insignia meanings on them. Taking the time to consult military members or experts can have you well on your way to creating and collecting the right pins to represent your chosen military branch.

Military Medal Hat Pins

Other kinds of pins are made to honor men and women under special circumstances. Some examples of these include Operation Enduring Freedom pins, which were given to soldiers involved in the Global War on Terrorism; the Purple Heart pin awarded to soldiers who were wounded or killed after 1917; and prisoner of war (POW) or missing in action (MIA) pins given to the family members of lost soldiers. These commonly come in the form of medal hat pins, and may be used to remember significant events or achievements by groups or individuals throughout U.S. military history.

Ceremonial Military Pins

Some military pins are highly ceremonial as well. Gaining a promotion in the military—or moving up the ranks—comes with a pinning ceremony in which family members gather to watch a member of the military receive a pin. Pinning ceremonies are an important way to recognize military men and women across all branches of United States Armed Forces. Some famous examples of these are the highly sought after Army infantry ranks of major or colonel, and the Prop and Wings pin which Air Force cadets receive. You can even hold a special pinning ceremony for a veteran in your community—show your appreciation by taking the time to get the details right and present them with a military pin tailored specifically for them.

Patriotic Pins

Of course, if you’re simply looking to show appreciation for the sacrifices our troops make every day, show your patriotism with a simple American flag design! An eagle or fireworks would also fit many celebratory occasions and emphasize the same message. Don’t sacrifice the quality or attention to detail, however. Make sure you give your lapel pin the time and effort it takes to create the perfect design to support our troops.

Whether you know someone personally or not, showing pride, being thankful, and remembering those who serve is important to keep that light shining on our dedicated soldiers. Creating these pins will reflect their sacrifice and remind them of the reason they served. Honor, remember, and display that sense of patriotism.

If you’re interested to learn even more about military lapel pins and their meanings, check out these 5 facts you need to know about military pins.




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