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YEAR IN REVIEW

Drone medal fails to take off

It was game over for the Pentagon’s “Nintendo medal” before it ever got off the ground.

In February, Pentagon officials unveiled plans for a new valor award: the Distinguished Warfare Medal, designed to honor “extraordinary actions” of drone pilots and other off-site troops performing noteworthy deeds on far-away battlefields.

Critics immediately derided the award as “the Purple Buttocks” and little more than a video game achievement honor.

Several veterans groups backed the idea of a new medal for those little-recognized contributors, but most were appalled that the honor would have ranked immediately below the Distinguished Flying Cross in the order of precedence — higher than the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, awards given for battlefield heroism.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was sworn into office in late February, and within a few weeks promised a full review into the award. By April, he ended the idea.

Instead of a new medal, Hagel authorized a new device to be affixed to existing military medals, specifically honoring drone pilots and other off-site operators who are “critical to our military’s mission of safeguarding the nation.”

Lawmakers and veterans groups praised the backtracking as a recognition of the unique danger and sacrifice of battlefield troops.

shane.leo@stripes.com
Twitter: @LeoShane

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