YUMA – (KSWT News 13) - The Pentagon's newest military honor is sparking debate over how to commend the service of our nation's growing corps of drone pilots and cyber-warriors.
The red, white and blue ribboned medal will be given to U.S. service members for "extraordinary achievement" in a post 9-11 world. Some call the new award, "The Nintendo Medal. That's because flying a military drone, as difficult as it may be, looks more like playing a video game with a joystick, than waging real-life warfare.
No bullets, no bombs, no blood … at least, not on our side. So why, veterans want to know, the prestige?
"They've ranked it wrong," says Bob Carey, a military veteran and the Director of the American Legion Riders, Post 19 in Yuma.
He's talking about a new medal recently approved by the Department of Defense for the nation's growing corps of unmanned drone pilots and cyber-warriors. It's called the Distinguished Warfare Medal.
Carey says he has no problem with recognizing U.S. service members for a job well done.
"These men and women do an excellent job in their field and that's fine. Give them an award. But it shouldn't be rated higher than a combat medal."
Military medals have an assigned precedence, with the Medal of Honor ranking at the very top. Among the other top honors are well-known prestigious medals like the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal has been rated above those.
"We don't like the idea that it's rated higher than a medal you get for valor, risking your life in combat," says Carey.
Carey says it's a sentiment shared by many fellow veterans. He says medals for flying an unmanned aircraft shouldn't rate so high.
"They're not in Afghanistan or Iraq in combat, getting shot at, risking their lives per se," says Carey.
Carey keeps his father's military medals in a case, each one proudly labeled and displayed, along with photographs.
Robert Carey, Sr. served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam war. The medal case houses two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star he earned during nearly 40 years of military service.
"When you've risked your life for your country, it just matters," explains Carey.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal is the first American combat-related award to be created since 1944. That's when the Bronze Star was introduced.
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