The Military Order of the Purple Heart as thrown its support behind efforts to lower the ranking of a new medal intended for drone pilots and cyber warriors below those of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for valor.
“To rank what is basically an award for meritorious service higher than any award for heroism is degrading and insulting to every American combat Soldier, Airman, Sailor or Marine who risks his or her life and endures the daily rigors of combat in a hostile environment,” the group said in a statement released Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, a Texas man has started a petition on the WhiteHouse.gov site calling for the lowering of the medal’s precedence. The petition’s creator, identified on the White House site by the initials “J.E.,” called the current ranking of the Distinguished Warfare Medal “an injustice to those who have served and risked their lives.”
As of Friday afternoon the petition had more than 200 signatures.The award was announced on Wednesday by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey. He said the military needed a medal that recognizes that post-9/11 warfare is different, with servicemembers at consoles in the U.S. directly affecting the outcome of enemy engagements.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he formally approved the medal in order to honor the contributions of drone and cyber warriors with a military decoration.
By Thursday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars came out opposing the medal’s ranking and demanded it be lowered.
VFW National Commander John E. Hamilton said in a statement the status of the new medal could become a morale issue. He said the VFW recognizes the changed battlefield landscape and that drone pilots and cyber warfare specialists have a direct, real-time impact on operations, but that these troops do not face the same physical risks as those in combat.