The Pentagon is creating the Distinguished Warfare Medal to recognize UAV pilots. ()
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The Military Order of the Purple Heart is the latest veterans group to call for the Pentagon to reconsider its new medal honoring drone pilots and others who are not actually serving in combat, calling it "degrading and insulting" to veterans who served on the ground in wartime.
The order, a nationwide network of troops and veterans who sustained physical injuries in combat, issued a statement Friday criticizing the new Distinguished Warfare Medal, which was unveiled this week and is intended to recognize troops in high-tech career fields who affect the battlefield without actually being in theater.
The order said the Pentagon policy makers exercised poor judgment by placing the new medal higher in the military's "order of precedence" than the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
"To rank what is basically an award for meritorious service higher than any award for heroism is degrading and insulting to every American Combat Soldier, Airman, Sailor or Marine who risks his or her life and endures the daily rigors of combat in a hostile environment," the order said in a prepared statement.
"The Military Order of the Purple Heart strongly urges the newly appointed Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to either reconsider the precedence of the Distinguished Warfare Medal or develop another way to recognize the achievements of those whose indirect actions contribute greatly to the accomplishment of the mission without diminishing the sacrifice of life and limb by those who confront the enemy firsthand on the battlefield," according to the statement.
The new medal will rank just below the Distinguished Flying Cross. It ranks above the Purple Heart, which recognizing battlefield injuries, and the Bronze Star, which, when awarded with a "V" device, honors heroic actions in combat.
"This award recognizes the reality of the kind of technological warfare we are engaged in the 21st century," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters in Washington as he announced the new medal on Feb. 13.
The medal will be awarded for specific acts, like the successful targeting of a specific individual at a critical time. It is the first new force-wide medal recognizing combat achievement since the Bronze Star was created in 1944.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars on Thursday called on the Pentagon to change the order of precedence to ensure that combat valor medals rank higher than the new DWM.