Pentagon to Conduct Thorough Review of All War Medals

Tuesday, 28 Jan 2014 07:06 PM

By Cathy Burke

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The Pentagon is reportedly reviewing all medals and awards to America's war heroes, including those from the growing ranks of drone pilots and cyber soldiers.

Stars and Stripes reported the review has been ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — who was awarded two Purple Hearts in Vietnam — and will begin in about a month, with completion expected later this year or early 2015.

"As the wars are ending … rather than looking piecemeal at any specific one, [Hagel] wants to do a comprehensive review of them all," Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told the newspaper.

The spokesman told Foreign Policy, in a column published Monday, that the review will "include service members entrusted with the responsibility to operate remote technology to directly impact combat as well as more traditional forms of arms."

"Having seen combat himself, Secretary Hagel fully understands and respects the traditions that come with awards and decorations," Kirby added. "This is a process that will take time and care, but he believes it's important if it's done right."

The full review comes almost a full year after ex-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta proposed a Distinguished Warfare Medal for drone pilots and cyber operators.

But the idea was quickly criticized, Stars and Stripes reported, even becoming the butt of jokes, including that the award itself should be a gold-plated Xbox controller.

Hagel canceled the medal in April, saying instead he'd create a "distinguishing device" — later known as the "Remote Impacts Device" — to be affixed on existing medals, Foreign Policy reported.

"There was a tremendous rift in the force when the Distinguished Warfare Medal was introduced," Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, told Foreign Policy.

A spokesman for California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who introduced legislation last year to rank the proposed medal below the Purple Heart, told Stars and Stripes the lawmaker supports Hagel's review.

"You have all these valor awards that have been downgraded over the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," Joe Kasper, Hunter’s deputy chief of staff, told Stars and Stripes.

"There seemed to be a deliberate effort to downplay these acts of valor, and meanwhile, there was the push to highlight drone operations."

Davis told the newspaper soldiers who work from remote locations need recognition,  but that warriors on the front lines are at the greater risk and deserve the greater honor.

"We are all for proper recognition," Davis told the newspaper. "And we believe in protecting the rank order of those medals that can only be earned in a combat zone, and keeping them at their higher precedence."

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