Veterans outraged over new warfare medal

Distinguished Warfare Medal
Distinguished Warfare Medal, the cause for all the flap
Photo credit The Marine Corps Times

Last week, the Department of Defense announced its newest military honor, the Distinguished Warfare Medal, for “extraordinary achievement” related to a military operation that occurred after Sept. 11, 2001. The medal will be awarded to cyber-warriors and drone pilots. These are the service members, generally working behind enemy lines, who guide unmanned drones.

Fair enough. These individuals contribute to keeping us safe, and they should be recognized. The problem arises in the new medal’s hierarchy among other service awards.

As it turns out, the new medal falls somewhere between the Bronze Star and Silver Star, the fourth and third highest military honor, and has a greater stature than the Purple Heart.

Once the significance of this news began to sink in, veterans’ organizations began grumbling and a White House petition has been initiated.

“Medals that can only be earned in direct combat must mean more than medals awarded in the rear,”John Hamilton, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said in a statement according to The Hill.

The Hill’s Carlo Munoz reported:

While the VFW “fully concurs” with the notion that rear echelon forces can have a significant impact in combat, particularly in the areas of unmanned drones and cyber warfare, Hamilton said that recognition comes at the expense of front line troops directly engaged with the enemy.

Putting those drone pilots and cyber warriors on par with ground infantry units or air combat squadrons “could quickly deteriorate into a morale issue” within the services.

Drone Pilot
The future of warfare? Drone pilot at work.
Photo credit

On Tuesday, the Pentagon defended both the medal and its stature,

“We are not diminishing at all the importance of the Bronze Star — that remains an important award for our combat troops and will remain so,” DOD Press Secretary George Little told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon.

Since the Defense Department’s announcement, the White House was petitioned to “Lower the precedence of the new Distinguished Warfare Medal.” As of Wednesday morning, there were over 10,000 signatures on the petition. One prominent petition signature is that of former Congressman Allen West, who tweeted to his followers Tuesday:

“Allen West @AllenWest
Support the WH petition to lower precedence of new Drone Warfare Medal. It’s an affront to Bronze Star recipients:”

Read more at The Hill.

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