Ari Feliciano, 48, of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, competed in his first Vintage Rifle Match during the CMP Eastern Games in North Carolina this past April. But Ari didn’t just compete—he competed in style.
“I wanted to show an awareness for The Great War because most people only think of the second World War,” Ari said.
Ari Feliciano from Puerto Rico rocking his Australian World War I uniform at the 2018 Eastern Games.
Dressed in an Australian World War I period uniform that he put together piece by piece, all the way from the notorious upturned hat down to his tan boots, Ari certainly drew the attention of others on the range. And they, in return, greeted him with smiles and conversation about his unique clothing choices.
As Ari explained, 2018 marks 100 years of the armistice that ended WWI on November 11, 1918. The armistice ended fighting between the Allies and Germany on land, sea and air.
Ari has only been shooting for about two years now, but after learning that members of his Puerto Rico Rifle and Pistol Club would be traveling to North Carolina to compete, he jumped at the opportunity to honor those who fought in the war, while also having some fun on the firing line.
Ari got into competitive shooting because of his love for vintage bolt-action rifles.
“Everything lined up,” he said. “I thought, I’m going to shoot my first competition, so let’s go all the way.”
Ari tried to get as close as he could to the proper Australian uniform of the time period, even making the “slouch hat” (as they are commonly known) all on his own and using real emu feathers to top it off—a tradition in the Australian military. The entire outfit took him about three months to complete.
Not caring about his score, Ari said he had a great time on the firing line.
A poppy pin on the lapel of Ari’s uniform, noted by the words “Lest We Forget,” served as a strong reminder of the importance of those who came before us and those who are yet to come. It encourages us to remember that the ability to enjoy competitions, events, nature and friends is a gift, and that it’s easy to overlook the fact that our freedoms were hard-earned by those of many countries who helped us earn that right—lest we forget.
After his first match, Ari went on to compete throughout the remainder of Eastern Games—but, of course, back in his regular Puerto Rico team uniform.
More about the Australian Uniform
Behind the firing line, Ari was more than happy to discuss his uniform with others.
Slouch Hat: The khaki fur felt (KFF) or “slouch hat,” as it’s commonly known, has become a national representation of Australia. It became a standard issue headdress in 1903, with the brim position turned up on one side to ensure it wouldn’t get in the way of firearms during drill movements. It’s now a symbol of Australian fighters during World War I and World War II.
Puggaree: Around the hat is a puggaree, which is a word derived from the Hindu word for turban or thin scarf. In Australia, this patch of khaki cloth is worn around the slouch hat, normally with a unit color patch sewn on the right side.
Emu Plumes: The Armoured Corps members often adorned their slouch hats with emu plumes, which originated in Queensland in 1891. Traditionally, soldiers would ride their horses alongside an emu, pluck a breast feather and place the feather on the hat to show off their accomplishment. In 1915, all units of the Australian Light Horse were granted permission to wear the plume, which they referred to as “Kangaroo feathers.”
The Rising Sun badge.
“Rising Sun” Badge: The badge on Ari’s hat is known as the “Rising Sun” badge and was worn by soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Australian Imperial Force in both World Wars. Always worn on the upturned side of a slouch hat, the badge has become an integral piece often identified with the spirit of ANZAC, Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
Poppy lapel pin 'Lest we forget.'
Lapel Pin: His poppy lapel pin inscribed with “Lest we forget” is a symbol used to commemorate military personnel who have died in war. First used in remembrance of those American soldiers lost in World War I, it has since been adopted by other countries, including Australia.