View Full Version : Bronze Star under fire Has the award been cheapened?

02-07-04, 07:40 AM
Bronze Star under fire
Has the award been cheapened?
By Lisa Hoffman
Scripps Howard News Service

In Iraq, Marine Reserves Maj. Bill Peeples earned the Bronze Star for dragging four wounded Marines to safety while under enemy fire.

Despite having been run over by a vehicle at a checkpoint, Army Sgt. 1st Class David Ainslie felled a gunman who had already wounded four U.S. soldiers. For that act, he was awarded the Bronze Star.

So, too, was Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class William McLeroy, who serves despite losing a leg a decade ago in a civilian accident. In Baghdad, he helped pull two wounded Iraqi civilians through concertina wire and heavy gunfire out of harm's way.

As the 60th anniversary of the Bronze Star arrived Wednesday, they and more than 16,000 other U.S. troops who have served in the Iraq war and its aftermath have been decorated with the military's fourth-highest combat medal.

But more than 90 percent of those pinned with the coveted award were recognized not for their valor but for less remarkable performance categorized as "meritorious service or achievement" in a combat zone. Echoing complaints as old as warfare itself, grumbles are growing on the Internet and elsewhere that the Bronze Star is being cheapened by being awarded too willy-nilly.

Among those awarded the Bronze in Operation Iraqi Freedom are:

An Army captain in a field artillery brigade who supervised the distribution of 3,500 maps to his battalion and, according to his Bronze Star citation, "made sense of a confusing situation."

An Air Force colonel who commanded a mission support group at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, where she oversaw the buildup of the base to accommodate 6,500 troops. According to her citation, "her team created an environment that was essential to achieving an extremely low disciplinary rate."

Five submarine commanders, whose sailors lobbed cruise missiles at Iraqi targets hundreds of miles away.

A sergeant who accidentally electrocuted himself, and another who was felled by "friendly fire" when the soldier behind him tripped and mistakenly shot him in the back.

A senior chaplain who produced 236 worship services at three locations, passed out hundreds of Bibles and rebuilt a park for Iraqi children.

Such examples have triggered online criticism from veterans and others that "medal inflation" is alive and well in Iraq.

"All I know is that my dad did three tours as a chaplain in 'nam, under fire by Russki rockets, and he didn't get no bronze star," an e-mail poster going by the name of "Experiment 6-2-6" wrote in a recent online discussion of Bronze Star awards.

The Army and other armed services are not surprised by the current medal criticism, perennial in the wake of every war.

Reminding commanders at the start of the Iraq operations of the need to be judicious, the Army issued a memo directing the brass to exercise special care "so that military decorations... are approved only for those soldiers who truly distinguish themselves from among their comrades by exceptional performance in combat or in support of combat operations."

For the most prized medals, it appears Army commanders are being parsimonious. So far, the Army reports only one Medal of Honor nomination, no Distinguished Service Cross awards, and just 111 Silver Stars.

Military experts say some of the Bronze Star controversy stems from the common misconception that the medal -- the fourth highest -- is given for bravery under fire. In fact, there are actually two Bronze Star categories.

When President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the creation of the Bronze Star on Feb. 4, 1944, it was broken into two categories. One medal was to be awarded for exhibiting valor in a combat zone.

The other was to hail "single acts of merit or meritorious service... accomplished with distinction." The idea was to commend "the unheralded type of fortitude of men who lived in the worst kind of physical conditions, carried everything they owned on their backs, and did so while under fire much of the time," wrote retired Marine Col. Theodore Gatchel.

Over the years, though, "Bronze Star creep" has set in, he and other critics say. In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, for example, more than 27,000 meritorious Bronze Stars were awarded -- nearly as many as were handed out during the Korean War and significantly more than in the ongoing Iraq operation, which has been longer and bloodier than the first Iraq engagement.

The most recent Bronze Star flap came in the wake of the U.S. intervention in Kosovo in 1999, when the Air Force awarded 115 Bronze Stars to airmen who never set foot inside a combat zone.

Asked about the current quibbling, Lt. Col. Robert White, chief of the Army's Military Awards Branch, responded via e-mail that "the commanders at all levels ensure the proper award is awarded for the level of responsibility and position commensurate to his/her duty."

Publication Date: 02-06-2004




02-07-04, 11:11 PM
Lisa Hoffman makes a good case. Sounds like the Bronze Star Medal has gone the way of the Purple Heart, being given out for acts which are close, but don't really win a cigar, let alone a medal. No...

02-08-04, 05:26 AM
My view is that some will use any criteria to award a medal.
That way they can say it's cover by the criteria for that medal.
It's legal but is that conduct moral?
I if I was recipent of one these medal, would think it really was nuthing to write home about.
This awarding of the Bronze Star for single acts of merit or meritorious service reminds me of an episode on MASH.
When Frank Burns wants to be put in for getting part of a shell in his eye...it was an egg shell...
But these awards are no laughing matter...
Some of these folks should look up General Charles Krulak on Integrity...it's the moral stand point from where all military matter should be conducted...

Semper Fidelis

02-08-04, 11:01 AM
Roger that, MillRat. Its always nice to send a photo to the folks back home, being presented an award. Egg shells sounds about right.

On a side note, It was General Charles Krulak's father, Lt Gen Victor Krulak, who pinned on my PH. I've got the photo to prove it. I'm the one seated on a canvas rack aboard a C-141 Starlifter transport plane. I've got bandages, a trache tube, and a feeding tube plainly visible coming out of my nostril.
Lt.Gen. Krulak is pinning the PH on my hospital blouse. At the time, he was the CG for the entire FMF-PAC. I was floored.

Semper Fi!