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Retirement Medal moves forward

SFC to issue formal request to Army

Feb. 23, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Illustrations By J. Bretschneider
Illustrations By J. Bretschneider (Staff)
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Illustrations By J. Bretschneider (Staff)
Illustrations By J. Bretschneider (Staff)

Sgt. 1st Class Steven Janotta never imagined his idea for an Army retirement medal would garner so much attention.

After Army Times featured his idea in a Feb. 10 cover story, Janotta has received an outpouring of positive feedback and support — along with a fair number of detractors.

“We wanted to get input from everybody, whether it was good or bad,” he said. “[But] I wasn’t expecting that many comments on it. I’m surprised and excited about it.”

Because the positive feedback outweighed the negative, Janotta said he’s going for it. He’s working on the write-up required to officially submit his idea for an Army Retirement Medal to his chain of command and Human Resources Command.

Janotta also is monitoring a White House petition, penned by a fellow soldier who supports his idea, calling for the commander in chief to take action on the medal. (To read the petition visit www.whitehouse.gov/petitions and search “Army retirement.”)

“To me, it’s a well worthy cause,” said Janotta, a 25-year infantryman who has three Iraq deployments under his belt. “[Retirement] is a significant event. If you’re going to dedicate your life, you should have something that stands alone.”

For those who missed it, Janotta has designed a black-and-gold ribbon with numeric distinguishing devices for the number of years served, starting with 20 or higher. The medal would be based off of the Department of the Army seal. He also proposed the following rules:

■ It would only be granted to soldiers who retired honorably.

■ A soldier’s DD 214, which is proof of how many years a service member has served, would serve as orders for the medal.

■ The medal would be retroactive, so retired soldiers could get the medal using their DD 214.

■ It would not be a substitute for the award units give soldiers for their time in service.

■ Medically retired soldiers would also be eligible.

One for the Reserve

After Janotta’s idea went public, Army Times received a number of intereseting responses. Among them was Sgt. 1st Class Mark Lopez, a full-time Army Reserve career counselor, who has also been kicking around the idea of a retirement medal.

He’s also pitching one specifically for Army Reserve soldiers.

“I think the Reserve should have some recognition, too,” he said.

Like Janotta, he had created a design for the medal, which Army Times illustrated. Lopez’s Reserve medal incorporates the Reserve logo and blue and yellow to represent the colors of the Army flag.

After giving it some thought, Lopez said he could also see ditching the Reserve design and sticking with one medal “because we’re all one service.”

Hater reaction

After Janotta’s proposed retirement medal went public, some commenters have argued that they would rather retain their retirement benefits than get an extra piece of ribbon.

Janotta said he’s not trying to make a statement.

“Granted, this medal doesn’t pay bills, but it’s recognition of your service to the Army and the country,” he said. “Everybody gets a DD 214, retirement benefits and all that, but that’s not what this medal is about. This is designed for retiring people. It can’t be upgraded or downgraded. It doesn’t matter what your rank is or what your [military occupational specialty] is.”

As he puts together his proposal, Janotta said he’s trying to use the feedback he’s received to improve on it.

“You have to have the good and bad together. That’s how you get the best product,” he said.

This includes rethinking the order of precedence for the medal and whether a numerical device is the best way to signify a person’s years of service. Lopez, for example, suggested using stars instead of numbers to denote years of service.

In terms of precedence, Janotta initially thought the medal be second only to the Medal of Honor because he envisioned the ribbon sitting on the top left of the rack of most soldiers to symbolically “close out” his or her service.

But some soldiers have suggested ranking it below combat or valor awards, while others suggest putting it just above campaign medals.

“If the Army decides to develop this medal and put it into our medals system, it would be the deciding factor on where it would go,” Janotta said, adding that he’s not doing this for himself.

“I’ll be long gone out of the Army,” he said. “This is not looking for more badges. I have more than enough. This just identifies those who made that long-term commitment. Someone who’s been in the military for more than two decades. Think about all that they’ve been through.”

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