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Origin of the Insignia in the US Military

Much of our military heritage dates back to the Crusades, when unified Western nations supporting the Holy Roman Empire fought frequent wars against the immensely powerful unified Eastern nations of the Byzantine Empire.

The single bar of a Junior Officer represented their responsibility for defending that land which fell inside a city wall. Two bars represented that land which fell inside a city wall surrounded by a moat. The oak leaf of Field Grade Officers represented their responsibility for defending as much land as could be seen from the top of an oak tree. And so the eagle represents all that land which can be seen from a high-flying bird of prey. Finally, the stars of Flag Rank Officers represents their responsibility for defending as much land as could be seen from the heavens. In the Byzantine empire, silver was worth more than gold, which is why silver insignia are superior to gold insignia.

Crusading knights and soldiers wore chevrons representing their experience in battle. A chevron architecturally represents the roof of a castle or large building. More chevrons on a uniform meant more experience in seiging castles. Stripes were also used to denote years of service.

The military salute originates from crusading knights, who while traveling on horseback, would raise their visors to show their faces as they greeted one another.

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Source: www.federalpay.org/military/articles/insignia-origins