A lot of people wear clothing that indicates something about them - college or professional affiliation, political ideology, sense of humor, or similar things. For the most part, I take note of these things, but rarely does it have a big impact. Maybe something makes me smile, a stereotype is confirmed or challenged, but by the time I've passed the person, the impact is forgotten.
Seeing people in military uniform usually has a bigger impact on me. Like most people, I feel gratitude that these people are serving their country and putting their lives in danger to do so. Regardless of my feelings on much of our government's military strategy, my feelings towards the institutions and the people committed to them are generally very positive.
But the gratitude I usually feel when I see people in uniform went to a whole new level today. When I was hanging out downtown, I saw a 97-year-old man wearing a Marines jacket and sporting a Navajo Code Talker hat. This man was one of approximately 400 Navajos who served as code talkers during WW2, transmitting a code that the Japanese were never able to crack, and about whom many military officials stated that "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima." It literally gave me chills to realize what an impact this man and those he worked with had at such a critical point in American, and world history.
It was obvious that I wasn't the only person who took note of the man and were in awe to see and meet someone who had such a critical role in our history. The man who was making a balloon figure for my son commented "If it weren't for him, we'd all be speaking German." [Perhaps more likely Japanese given that the Navajos work was primarily in the Pacific, but I am certainly no WW2 expert.] Many people stopped to speak with this former code talker, and I for one was thinking about him and his impact for quite a while after seeing him. We all like to think that our contributions to the world are having a positive impact, but it's not often you encounter people who played an integral part in something that had such a large impact on the course of history.