When you leave the military, you will probably wonder what to do with old military uniforms.
While there are rules and regulations surrounding what uniforms need to be returned to the supply clerk, what is all right to donate, and what to do with insignias, there is not much oversite.
However, there are some best practices for handling extra old military uniforms.
Related Article – Air Force Uniform Regulations for 2021
Table of Contents
What The Regulations Say About Old Military Uniforms
Uniforms are technically government property, but soldiers often buy their own extra uniforms with their own money.
However, the government gives a uniform allowance for uniforms and will swap out uniforms for fresh ones when needed.
They will also issue mission or location-specific gear, such as protective clothing or cold-weather gear.
Therefore, it is still considered government property.
When you look at equipment and uniforms, generally, anything worn on the outside is non-retainable.
Items that have direct contact with the skin, however, are retainable. Meaning you can keep them.
However, this process varies by military branch, so it is vital to ask your chain of command as you begin the process of leaving the military.
When you leave the Armed Forces, the supply clerk might ask for some equipment back, and they might even ask for issued uniforms.
Optional uniforms, such as sweaters, windbreakers, or mess dress uniforms, are not covered by your uniform allowance. So, generally, they’re yours to keep since you purchased them out of pocket.
However, it’s a good idea to know how to properly dispose of old military uniforms. There are several factors to consider before you get rid of them.
- The first is whether or not they have any insignia, name tapes, or patches.
- The second is whether they’re still in active use or obsolete items.
- The third is whether they are specifically designed for protection from chemicals, biohazards, or heat.
- And finally, what kind of condition are they in?
Taking the above factors into consideration will help you determine the best and most efficient use of your old uniforms.
Option #1: Destroy Them
Some service members opt to destroy uniforms after leaving the service.
While there is not much oversite determining what is done with old military uniforms, the disposal or destruction is technically not authorized.
However, throwing them away or destroying old military uniforms is still common.
This prevents them from being used for stolen valor purposes, which we discuss in detail below.
However, it’s also a terrible waste if they can be reused by another military member or repurposed to keep them out of landfills.
How to Dispose of Old Military Uniforms Properly
Unlike the flag, there isn’t really any improper way to dispose of old military uniforms.
It’s not uncommon to simply throw the uniform away in the trash bin, as it’s not recognized as being improper.
In addition, you can simply burn the uniform. Again, it’s not considered against etiquette in doing so.
Some service members choose to go this route in order to prevent their old military uniform to be used for stolen valor purposes.
Option #2: Keep Them
Ideally, upon leaving the military, you have the space to keep one uniform. You may not have the space and find you still have them, anyway.
Because your issued uniform is considered the property of the Armed Forces, your uniform is technically the property of the military.
However, having one Class A uniform is ideal for special occasions post-military life, especially for welcome home parties or even funerals.
However, three months is the typical rule for wearing your uniform after your honorable discharge.
If you received a dishonorable discharge, you are not to wear your uniform at all.
If you retired from the military, you’re permitted to wear your uniform whenever you wish as long as it reflects the grade/rank you were at retirement. Many retirees retain a set of Class As for formal military occasions and reunions.
Option #3: Donating Them
If you are wondering what to do with old military uniforms and opt to donate some or all of them, remove your patches and insignia first.
Many discharged service members donate their uniforms to military thrift stores or shops that benefit veterans.
If your uniform items are still in active use, this is the best way to dispose of your old military uniforms. Check with base resources before you process out to see if they have a donation program for uniforms.
Many installations have donation points or thrift stores that accept uniform items to give or sell cheaply to other military members.
If you have some nice optional uniform items in good condition, some junior enlisted person on a tight budget will surely appreciate being able to add them to their closets.
You can also call and find out if your nearby military base does disaster training for its medics.
The training for medics involves fake blood and having to cut up uniforms to practice trauma care. No one wants to lose a fresh pair of ACUs in that situation.
Also, consider reaching out to your local ROTC or JROTC program to see if they need donated uniforms.
Your local recruiter is a great place to find out where to donate uniforms locally.
Lastly, you might want to check out your local VFW hall or American Legion post.
In many cases, they’ll actually take your old military uniform. Here’s how to get in touch with them:
VFW – Find a Post
American Legion – Find a Post
What To Do With Old Badges, Medals, and Ribbons
The Department of Defense tends to leave a lot up to individual military branches.
However, the Department of Defense does not authorize medals to be donated or transferred to anyone else.
You can return these items when you have a change of duty status. Otherwise, you might consider keeping them.
In fact, if you earned them, keep them!
Most former service members keep their medals — after all, they’re awarded for life.
You might want to consider putting them in a shadowbox and hanging it on your wall.
Related Article – Army Uniform Regulations for 2021
How To Prevent Your Old Military Uniform From Being Used For Stolen Valor
There is some controversy surrounding the idea of selling old uniforms.
Stolen valor is a term used to describe those who lie about serving in the military, or greatly embellish what they did.
For example, someone could claim that they were in special forces when in reality they were simply a cook.
With that said, some argue that you lower the risk of someone impersonating your rank if you remove your insignia and patches from your old military uniforms.
Really the only way to keep someone from using your old military uniform from being used for stolen valor purposes is to either:
- Destroy it, or
- Keep it in your possession
The Department of Defense expects those who leave the military to remain vigilant to avoid unauthorized use of old uniforms.
While regulations surrounding what to do with old military uniforms are not largely enforced, you have good options.
There are reasons to keep one or some of your old uniforms.
However, if you decide to donate your uniforms, remove the patches and insignia first.
Also, consider donating uniforms to an on-base thrift store or to an organization that supports veterans.
Also, you might contact your local base to see if there are training programs that need extra uniforms. Your local J/ROTC programs and your local recruiter likely have ideas, as well.
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