Pentagon: 1,357 medals could qualify for higher award
By TARA COPP | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 13, 2016
WASHINGTON – The military services have identified 1,357 medals awarded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could qualify for higher honors, according to Pentagon officials.
In January, the Pentagon launched an extensive review into the number of Medals of Honor, Silver Stars and service crosses awarded for actions taken in Iraq and Afghanistan. The review could lead to upgrades to certain medals depending on the outcome. The initial estimate suggested about 1,100 medals were being reviewed.
The Army is reviewing 785 Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross awards. The Navy, including the Marines, is reviewing 425 Navy Cross and Silver Star medals. The Air Force is reviewing 147 medals, including 135 Silver Stars and 12 Air Force Crosses.
The Navy and Air Force said their reviews should be complete by spring. The Army said its review would be completed by the Sept. 30, 2017 deadline set by the Secretary of Defense.
That there are more medals under review than previously estimated is encouraging, said Maj. Ben Sakrisson, a Pentagon spokesman.
“It demonstrates that the services are being very thorough in ensuring our personnel were appropriately recognized for their courageous actions,” he said. “This is not to say that the proper medals were not awarded the first time, but with medals of this magnitude it is important to make certain that is the case.”
When the Pentagon announced the review in January, it was to address concerns that few Medals of Honor were awarded for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which millions of Americans have served.
“The secretary directed the review as a cautionary measure on behalf of the servicemembers who have performed heroically in combat,” the Pentagon said in a statement at the time.
No medals are at risk of being downgraded. Instead, the review will look at two things: recommendations that did not result in a medal to determine whether one was merited and medals awarded to determine whether the honors should be upgraded.
Sakrisson said that he expected that the services would likely submit upgrade recommendations as one combined package. If the recommendations suggest upgrading a Silver Star to a service cross -- the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross and the Air Force Cross – those recommendations would need to be approved by the service secretaries. If the recommendation is to upgrade one of the service crosses to a Medal of Honor, those recommendations would have to be approved by the president.
Sakrisson said the department would work to address any awards where the time limitations have expired.
“By law, service crosses and Medals of Honor must be awarded within five years of the act justifying award,” he said. The department would work with Congress to request the waiving of the statutory time limits.