Echoing concerns of The American Legion, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has announced the formation of a panel to discuss the fate of the Distinguished Warfare Medal, also known as the "Drone Medal," an award for servicemembers who remotely launch unmanned military strikes or cyberattacks that kill or disable enemy forces.
The medal has been the subject of criticism by The American Legion because, as originally announced by then-defense secretary Leon Panetta, it would rank higher than such prestigious combat decorations as the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Hagel – a Vietnam War veteran and recipient of two Purple Hearts himself – initially defended the ranking. However, in the face of repeated opposition from The American Legion, other veterans groups and some members of Congress, he has decided to convene a review panel headed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, to discuss the matter. In the meantime, production of the new medal has been halted.
American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz said the decision to take another look at the issue is a good one.
"In no way does the Legion wish to diminish the contributions to our national security, to the security of our deployed troops or to the battle against terrorism represented by the greatly advanced and precise skills exhibited by the operators of these important weapons," Koutz said. "These dedicated men and women deserve recognition for their vital work. However, in the hierarchy of awards, we believe firmly that placing this medal above those given for valor and courage demonstrated on the field of battle is wholly inappropriate.
"We are confident that the committee assembled on behalf of Secretary Hagel will understand the distinction and maintain the integrity of some of our nation’s highest personal honors for combat service and sacrifice."