WASHINGTON — Lawmakers are lashing out at the Pentagon’s creation of the Distinguished Warfare Medal - intended to honor the contributions of drone pilots and cyber warriors who haven’t set foot on the battlefield - by introducing legislation that would ban it from being rated on par with or above the Purple Heart.
A trio of veterans serving in Congress, Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., Tom Rooney, R- Fl., and Tim Murphy, R-Pa., introduced the bill on Wednesday, in response to what has been a public outcry against the creation of the medal, which was announced on Feb. 13.
“Combat valor awards have a deep and significant meaning to those who serve in America’s military,” said Hunter, a former Marine, in a statement. “These awards represent not just actions, but also the courage and sacrifice that derive from experiences while in harm’s way. And those engaged in direct combat put their lives on the line, accepting extraordinary personal risk.”
According to Pentagon officials, the medal, which ranks immediately below the Distinguished Flying Cross, was intended to recognize “extraordinary achievements that directly impact on combat operations, but do not involve acts of valor or physical risks that combat entails.”
But that has led to public outrage over it from groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Military Order of the Purple Heart, which have expressed fears that it cheapens the significance of other combat medals that are awarded at risk of physical harm, injury or loss of life.
Rooney, an Army veteran, urged the Pentagon to reconsider its ranking of the new medal, which would be ranked above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, in a letter to military top brass earlier this month. And the number of petitions demanding a change have continued to grow online on the White House’s “We the People” website. However, Pentagon officials have not said they would reconsider the medal’s placement.
Rooney said in a statement on the new bill that he and other veterans “had grave concerns” about the ranking of the medal.
“There is no greater sacrifice than risking your own life to save another on the battlefield,” he said, “and the order of precedence should appropriately reflect the reverence we hold for those willing to make that sacrifice.”
Murphy, a Navy veteran, said he strongly believed from his personal experiences of serving with “combat-wounded veterans at Walter Reed (Army Medical Center), that their Purple Heart should and must rank above the Distinguished Warfare Medal.”
"If the Pentagon will not reconsider the decision to rank this medal above the Purple Heart, the House will take action,” he said.