New Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel nixes new medal for drone pilots

By David Ferguson
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 13:12 EDT
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Chuck Hagel via AFP
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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has nixed the creation of a new military medal that would honor drone pilots and cyber operatives. According to Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel, veterans and lawmakers alike created an uproar when it was announced that the new medal would outrank the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals.

The Distinguished Warfare Medal was proposed in February by outgoing Secretary of Defense, Leon Pannetta, and was intended to honor military achievements “beyond the battlefield” since September 11, 2001. The outcry against the new medal came when it was clear that the new honor would take precedence over traditional combat awards, including the Purple Heart, awarded to those who are injured in service to the country, and the Bronze Star, awarded for acts of heroism and courage, as well as for meritorious service.

After a 30-day review of the new medal, Hagel chose to introduce a modifying insignia to be worn with an existing medal rather than to create a separate honor.

“The Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the concurrence of the service secretaries, have recommended the creation of a new distinguishing device that can be affixed to existing medals to recognize the extraordinary actions of this small number of men and women,” he said. “I agree with the Joint Chiefs’ findings, and have directed the creation of a distinguishing device instead of a separate medal.”

“The service men and women, who operate and support our remotely piloted aircraft, operate in cyber, and others are critical to our military’s mission of safeguarding the nation,” continued Hagel. “I again want to thank my predecessor, Leon Panetta, for raising the need to ensure that these men and women are recognized for their contributions.”

“This decision will clearly keep medals that can only be earned in combat in their high order of precedence,” said John E. Hamilton, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, “while providing proper recognition to all who support our warfighters regardless of their distance from the fight.”

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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