There was a time in our nation’s military history when a service member actually had to earn their medals. Those days are quickly fading as America transitions into the “everybody gets a medal” culture. The latest military honor program degrades those who served before us and those who actually earned their awards and decorations.
According to the Marine Corps Times, the Defense Department has come up with a new medal known as the Distinguished Warfare Medal. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said, “This award recognizes the reality of the kind of technological warfare we are engaged in the 21st century.” There is an issue about this award however causing uproar among many combat veterans.
The Defense Warfare Medal will soon become the fourth highest combat decoration in order of precedence pushing the Bronze Star down a notch to the fifth highest combat decoration. Recognized as the third highest award stands the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Should an award be given to those who never face the enemy in physical confrontation actually be positioned just below the Distinguished Flying Cross? Many veterans believe not.
In today’s military environment, medals are often handed out like candy. This doesn’t mean some recipients don’t deserve such awards however it does mean that many do not. Take for example the Bronze Star. It has turned into nothing more than a Valentine's box of chocolates for the majority receiving such an honor today.
Executive Order 9419 signed on February 4th, 1944, states the Bronze Star “is awarded to a person in any branch of the military service who, while serving in any capacity with the Armed Forces of the United States on or after December 7, 1941, shall have distinguished himself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight, in connection with military operations against an armed enemy.”
Since when did heroic or meritorious achievement translate into “senior non-commissioned officers or junior commissioned officers will receive such award by merely deploying overseas so long as they stay out of trouble and keep their troops in line?”
You may think I am kidding but that is one way some persons will receive the distinguished medal today.
Sound far-fetched? Look at how the combat action badge is handed out these days.
In Afghanistan, those that actually do go outside the wire often stop their convoys even though none of them are disabled simply because they hear one or two pop shots off in the distance. The vehicles stop and hundreds, if not thousands, of rounds are expended into mountain sides from their vehicles. Convoy leaders ensure to radio in their “Troops in Contact” (TIC) simply to keep record which would later be used to help write justification for the Combat Action Badge.
If anyone has been out on patrols they know this type of thing happens. If anyone has deployed, you know the Bronze Star has been degraded due to who is actually receiving the honor. The American culture of “everyone deserves a medal” has trickled into our own military.
So how bad has the military award and decoration culture transpired? Today, the Pentagon believes drone pilots and cyber warfare specialists deserve something much more honorable than those who actually face the enemy in battle. They will be the recipients of the Distinguished Warfare Medal.
Audie Murphy must be rolling in his grave.
Kerry Patton has served in the U.S. Defense and Justice departments, and as a contractor within the Homeland Security and State departments. He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban. He is the author of "Contracted: America's Secret Warriors".