Have you heard about the new medal? It is called The Distinguished Warfare Medal. Who qualifies to receive it? Male and female soldiers are awarded the medal for extraordinary achievements that directly impact combat operations but do not involve acts of valor or physical risk that entails combat.
Example: Pilots of drones, the new weapon of choice, qualify because they engage the enemy from afar and from safe bunkers and because, being so high-tech, they assist the war effort.
OK, so what is wrong with these important soldiers being able to get a medal recognizing this important service? Nothing wrong with them getting a medal. They save lives by keeping foot soldiers from having to put boots on the ground.
But, what an old combat soldier like me objects to is that this new medal ranks above the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Think about it. The drone pilots engage from afar, are not at risk, do not directly face the enemy close up. Those foot soldiers like me earned their Bronze Stars for meritorious achievement in ground operations against the enemy. We fought out of cold, wet foxholes under constant shelling and bombardment from the enemy and in constant danger. How now can the officials in the Pentagon grant an honor to soldiers using computers to fly drones and consider this a higher honor than a Purple Heart or Bronze Star earned in ground fighting against the enemy?
The ranking of this new medal deserves challenge because it is now a morale issue. It lowers the prestige of combat awards earned the hard way in World War II and subsequent combat areas.
The drone age did not actually come into recognition until 2001, long after World War II soldiers earned their Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars. These old soldiers earned their awards in foxholes in Africa, Italy, France, Germany and the jungles of the South Pacific. They did their share of freezing, treating trench foot, being killed or wounded, fighting hand-to-hand and not in the safety of a bunker.
Drone warfare is important. It should be recognized even if it depends on surveillance, precision and knowledge of computer science. These pilots hit high-level targets and are covert in their actions. They make an important contribution to our national defense.
Recognize these pilots and their service with the Distinguished Warfare Medal, but remember holders of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star do not agree that the new medal ranks an importance above these other awards. Holders of Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars put their lives on the line. They cannot forget the smell of death, the cry of the wounded, the falling shells and exploding bombs. Do not diminish their recognition.
Jack Simpson is a former educator, a veteran, an author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.