Wings of gold

Wings of gold

Naval astronaut

The pin you see in that photo is a unique specimen. At first glance it looks like the pin a Naval Aviator wears on his uniform, but that shooting star gives us pause. This is, in fact, the official uniform pin of a US Navy officer who also happens to be an astronaut.

I’ve had this pin for about 25 years. I bought at an Army-Navy store in Stoughton, Mass. (long gone now) around my senior year in high school. At the time I was certain that I wanted to be an astronaut and would attain that goal by first becoming a Naval Aviator. So I bought the pin and affixed to a cap that I wore everywhere, as an aspirational sign to myself and everyone else.

My dream took me as far as joining Navy ROTC my freshman year in college at Boston University. I would eventually drop out after that one year because I was too immature for the responsibility of college and do the work I was supposed to do. But at one point in the year, I ran into one of the officers running the NROTC unit. He was a Marine colonel and an actual Naval Aviator and I looked up to him like a puppy dog looks to his master. When he called me aside one day, I thought he wanted to give me a pep talk or congratulate me on my military bearing.

Instead he told me that since I hadn’t earned the wings I was wearing on my cap—and since wearing insignia wings on a cap was forbidden anyway—I needed to remove them and never do it again. I pleaded ignorance—only partially true since I suspected they were authentic wings—and obeyed. He was given pause upon closer inspection, however, at the shooting star, which he didn’t recognize. I proudly explained the significance and told him of my dream. He humored me and repeated his admonition.

And so for the last 25 years, the wings have sat in a succession of desk drawers and closet-bound boxes, waiting for what I know not. Maybe for the day I can pull them out and show my sons or daughters or grandchildren about how I once wanted to be an astronaut and how they should follow their dreams even if there’s the possibility of failure. Because a fear of failure is sometimes worse than the failure itself.

Meanwhile, the wings go back in a drawer until the next time I bring them out and think about how different my life would have been. And realize that I wouldn’t trade my life now for the thrill of spaceflight or flying high-performance jets.


  • There couldn’t have been too many naval aviator atronauts prior to your purchase of the wings. 

    The rare badge must have had an original owner.

    I think it would interesting to learn how it found its way to an Army Navy store and maybe returned to a museum of some sort for display.

  • Hi Domenic!  Well, I have to respond to this one, but before I do so, I must confess that I, from time-to-time, check your site and enjoy it.  I love stories like this one about the naval pin.  And it instantly reminded me of a story of my father.  When my parents were first married with one son (they would eventually have 8 living, but that is another story…), he enlisted in the army and did a bit of time in Turkey.  As we was flying back to the U.S., he had the option of stopping for a day or so in Rome, Italy.  Being a very devout catholic and former-seminarian, it would have meant alot for him to go.  To a guy from MI, an opportunity like that (esp. in those days!) came once in a lifetime.  Anxious to see his wife & son, he chose to not go & head directly to the U.S.  Many, many years later (about 30), he did indeed visit Rome, Italy to witness his daughter take her 1st vows as a religious sister.  He returned several years later to witness his son take his 1st vows as a religious brother.  Who would have known?  Your story of the medal is very interesting…perhaps in 30 years, as we continue to check back to your website, we’ll one day see how you pass that medal off to your son or grand-daughter (or what-not) as they become an astronaut for the U.S. Navy!  Thanks, Dom, for sharing the story!  Best wishes to you & yours!  Ciao!  (Diana Anderson-LoChiatto)