If the practice of taking war souvenirs isn't the oldest form of collecting, then it is certainly in the neighborhood. Organized military conflict has historically been an enterprise rich in symbols and heraldry, so collecting artifacts from a vanquished foe has been a natural part of warfare. The charming practice of displaying an opponent's severed head on a pike has fallen into disfavor among most modern cultures, but a vigorous pursuit of the foe's hats, helmets, flags, insignia, weapons, and equipment remains a constant theme, from ancient times right up to and including ongoing conflicts.
There are as many reasons to collect as there are collectors. A collector doesn't need to have a personal association with a particular battle, campaign, or individual. Military conflicts make for compelling history, and that alone can serve as the inspiration driving a collector's pursuit of artifacts. An object from the US Armed Forces can be a powerful connection to one soldier's story, our nation's history, and to a critical moment in time.