Making Sure You Don’t Dishonour While Trying to Honour

Burma Star

As a Scot, raised in England, living in the US, there were many changes I have had to make over the years in my interactions with people. I’ve had to adjust the way I talk so people can understand what the heck I am saying. I’ve had to become more personal in my interactions and less assertive in my discussions, in order to establish a level of personal connection at work that is common in America, but not as common in the UK. And I’ve discovered that wearing a kilt to a networking event is a powerful way to ensure you meet everyone in attendance.

So my latest inquiry into decorum and respect involved a common practice in the UK, but one that I had not seen taking place in the US.

It involved medals.

In the UK, we have a tradition that is commonly accepted. That is, wearing family medals. Both my granddads were decorated during World War II, and my great-great-granddad was decorated during the Boer War. And in Britain, to honour your family you wear those medals at appropriate events. The only difference is you wear them on your right chest (if you earn a medal you wear it on your left chest).

And it is viewed in the UK as a celebration of your history, and an honouring of your relatives.

And as we approach November 11, which is Veteran’s Day in the US and Remembrance Day or Poppy Day in the UK, I was considering doing so.

So I decided to ask the question of a US Navy Rear Admiral I am honoured to know. And I’m glad I did.

Apparently, under no circumstances should someone who didn’t earn a medal wear that medal in the US. It would be viewed as highly offensive.  As the Rear Admiral put it, “that is not the tradition here and I would recommend against it.” In other words, don’t do it!

And if you’re in the UK, make sure the medals are on the right chest. If you wear them on the left, you are claiming them as your own. And you don’t want to end up in jail like this guy did.

Class adjourned.