Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Yesterday, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced that Secretary Chuck Hagel has canceled the creation of a new military medal for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) pilots and cyber warriors that was set to be ranked higher than the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. DOD said it would instead develop a special pin or device that would be attached to already existing medals or ribbons

This is a fair way to protect the integrity of medals like the Purple Heart and Bronze Star that are earned while serving directly under enemy fire.

Prior to DOD’s decision, and in response to concerns from the nation’s leading veterans’ organizations earlier this year, I joined Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to introduce a bill to ensure that the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart rank ahead of this proposed new medal. Our problem has never been the creation of a new medal for cyber warriors and pilots of UAVs, rather the fact that initial proposals intended to rank this medal higher than the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart even though it would honor service away from the front lines.

The Bronze Star is earned for acts of heroism in a combat zone and the Purple Heart awarded to those wounded or killed by the enemy while serving in our Armed Forces. A medal’s ranking indicates how it is supposed to be displayed, with the Medal of Honor ranking the highest among the military’s nearly 60 medals and ribbons. While we should acknowledge the important role that our UAV pilots play on the modern-day battlefield and recognize their distinguished service, we must recognize the preeminence of commendations for those commit acts of bravery in combat and are killed or injured in service to our nation.

Therefore, I am glad to see that DOD has backed off its plan to honor extraordinary achievement by UAV pilots and cyber warriors in a manner that equates the nature of their service with the sacrifices of those who serve in combat zones, risking life and limb, under direct enemy fire.