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Iraq war vets wait for ally's Commitment Medal

Apr. 1, 2013 - 05:25PM   |  
A draft view of the Iraq Commitment Medal
A draft view of the Iraq Commitment Medal (Defense Department)
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It's been nearly two years since the Iraqi government signaled its desire to present U.S. troops with a military decoration recognizing their dedication during nine years of war, hardship and sacrifice, but to date just one Iraq Commitment Medal has been delivered — and it was not given to a service member.

Announced in a 2011 letter to then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta by Saadoun al-Dulaimi, Iraq's defense minister, the medal would go to anyone who served in Iraq, its territorial waters or its airspace for 30 consecutive days or 60 nonconsecutive days. “We expect that more than 1 million current or former service members may be eligible to receive the Commitment Medal,” al-Dulaimi wrote to Panetta.

Al-Dulaimi's letter to Panetta stated that Iraq authorized the U.S. and its coalition partners to arrange for production so it might “be readily available to the recipients.” But the U.S. may not be on the same page.

“Since this is a foreign medal, traditionally the foreign government provides that medal to eligible members,” Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a DoD spokesman, told Military Times. “The department greatly appreciates the desire of the government of Iraq to recognize our members' service. … The Department of Defense has not received the medals from the government of Iraq, as a result there are no medals available to approve or distribute at this time.”

The gold-colored ceramic medal features an outline of Iraq and two lines symbolizing the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Two clasped hands symbolize the friendship between Iraq and the coalition nations, and a star at the top represents a vision of unity for the peoples of Iraq. An inscription around the edge, in English and Arabic, reads: “There is no one that can forget, and let nothing be forgotten.”

On the reverse side, the rayed disc symbolizes the sun, optimism and Iraq's future of reconstruction and the establishment of the democratic way of life. Crossed scimitars recall the partnership between coalition forces and Iraqi security forces. “Joint Commitment” is inscribed in both Arabic and English.

To date, Vice President Joe Biden is the only individual to receive an Iraq Commitment Medal. He received one from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a special “day of commitment” ceremony in Baghdad on Dec. 1, 2011. Since then, however, the Defense Department has removed an illustration of the medal design — and photos of Biden receiving the medal — from its website.

In his speech in Baghdad, Biden noted that the U.S. was withdrawing combat troops from Iraq in accordance with the Strategic Framework Agreement between Iraq and the coalition.

“A promise made is a promise kept,” he said.

Service members wonder if those sentiments apply to medals, or whether the Iraq Commitment Medal — despite its inscription — has been forgotten.

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