updated 11/11/2006 7:42:06 PM ET 2006-11-12T00:42:06

Military veterans display their medals and service ribbons all day once a year in Australia. It’s a tradition that Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson would like to import to the U.S.

Nicholson is asking America’s veterans to wear their medals and service ribbons on their civilian clothes all day on Veterans Day this Saturday, not just when they appear in uniform or participate in Veterans Day events.

While in Sydney last April, Nicholson participated in Australia and New Zealand’s largest secular celebration, ANZAC Day, a commemoration of those allied nations’ role in a key World War I battle.

“My wife and I went into a cafe and the guy who took our order had his ribbons on, and the guy who made our cappuccino had his ribbons on,” Nicholson said in an interview Thursday. “It made me think, it’s the kind of thing we should develop as a tradition in our country.”

The secretary said he wants to give veterans license to express more pride in their military service, and not to feel it’s bragging to show their medals and ribbons. It also may foster more open conversations with families and friends about military service, he said.

As a Vietnam veteran who once avoided calling attention to his service, Nicholson said he wants to make sure today’s veterans can keep enjoying high levels of popular support. In recent weeks he has been asking veterans groups to encourage the show of pride and service.

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