Wearing the Uniform for Air Force Retirees and Veterans

Air Force Uniform Regulations

Gen Deppe retirement
••• Air Force Space Command /Flikr/CC BY 2.0

Whether you are a retired Air Force member, or served and now classify as a veteran, there are rules for where, when, and how you can wear the uniform. Medal and ribbon-wearing also have restrictions.

The Air Force retiree is granted more opportunity to wear the uniform than a veteran. To qualify, a retired member of the military must typically serve for at least 20 years, but earlier retirement for medical reasons due to injury or illness is another way to receive the same privileges as full retirees.

Uniform Rules for Retirees 

Air Force retirees may wear the uniform for certain functions, and that includes traveling to and from any of them—if the travel occurs less than 24 hours from the event starting time. The permitted circumstances are:

  • Formal settings: Events such as military ceremonies, funerals, weddings, memorial services, and inaugurals
  • Holiday events: Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day, as well as patriotic parades and events when military units participate or are honored 
  • Educational institutions: When observing or part of giving military instructions or responsible for military discipline
  • Social events: Functions where the invitation to the event is because of the retired service member's prior service

Air Force retirees may wear any of the uniform as prescribed at date of retirement according to Air Force Instruction 36-2903, which addresses the wearing of Air Force uniforms by Air Force retirees and Air Force veterans.

Retired Airmen receive the retired lapel button at retirement and should wear it on the left lapel. If the retiree was in command at the squadron, group, or wing level, they can wear the command insignia pin on the left lapel, below the retired lapel button. Senior enlisted retirees whose last assignment before retirement was a first sergeant and/or command chief may wear appropriate chevrons in all instances the uniform is worn after retirement.

The Rules for Veterans 

Air Force veterans who served during a declared or undeclared war and were discharged—either honorable or general—may wear the uniform. This includes service with an air component of the Army before the Air Force was established. These are the circumstances:

  • Formal settings: Events such as military ceremonies, funerals, weddings, memorial services, and inaugurals. The same travel restriction of 24 hours before or after the event applies.
  • Holiday events: Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day, as well as patriotic parades and events when military units participate or are honored.

Separated Airmen (whether or not they served during a time of war) may wear the uniform from place of discharge to home, within 3 months after discharge.

Medal of Honor Recipients

Medal of Honor recipients may wear the medal and uniform at any time except the following events or situations:

Public or political speeches: Participating in public speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches or rallies, or in any public demonstration when Air Force sanction of the cause for which the activity is conducted may be implied

Personal or political gain: Recipient may not further political activities, private employment, or commercial interests wearing the medal and/or the uniform

Civilian employment: Recipients may not wear the medal while working in an off-duty civilian capacity

Civil or criminal court: Recipients may not wear the medal while participating in civilian court proceedings when the conviction would bring discredit to military service 

Any individual wearing a U.S. Military uniform is expected to reflect the high personal appearance standards and esprit de corps that the U.S. Military in uniform represent. To this end, particular attention is paid not only to the correct and military wear of uniform components, but also to the individual’s personal and physical appearance. All personnel exercising the privilege of wearing a U.S. Military uniform are expected to comply fully with their service's grooming and weight control standards.