Acting Undersecretary of the Navy Gregory J. Slavonic is a many of many talents. A veteran of combat deployments during the Vietnam War, Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, he counts two Bronze Stars, a Legion of Merit, and Presidential Unit Citation among his many awards. He is, by most measures, a sailor of distinguished service
But let’s be real: as a former sailor, all of those achievements likely pale in comparison to having a custom patch to commemorate his current role in the Navy — a patch that Slavonic recently wore on his flight suit during a visit to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California on Tuesday.
Slavonic was visiting Marines at Camp Pendleton “to gain enhanced insight to fleet modernization, cyber and readiness efforts that will ultimately build a more lethal force,” according to the service. The visit included an orientation flight in an AH-1Z Viper assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
But let’s zoom in on that patch just a bit more:
Upon close inspection, the patch appears to show the silhouette of a figure wearing a cowboy hat and trench coat, his hands clasped behind his back with what appears to be a six-shooter revolver in his right hand. The gunfighter is emblazoned on a jet-black background alongside the word ‘UNSECNAV’ in blood red.
If this gunfighter looks familiar, well, he should: It’s actually the silhouette of Clint Eastwood from the poster of his 1992 film Unforgiven. The Academy Award-winning movie starred Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris alongside Eastwood in the latter’s final Western.
It’s unclear why, exactly, Unforgiven was the inspiration for a custom patch, or if he was even responsible for the selection in the first place. According to the Chief of Naval Information, Marine Air Wing 39 provided the secretary with the patch upon his arrival at Camp Pendleton.
The patch was created by Army veteran Jack Hinton, owner of MarinePatches.com, which makes most of the squadron patches for the Corps.
“It’s a standard HMLA-369 shoulder patch,” Hinton told Task & Purpose. “We keep the blanks in stock and add lettering as requested by the squadron.”
Here’s to you, Slavonic: you now have another piece of memorabilia to add to your office.