There is a scene in the 2010 novel The Berlin Conspiracy by William Penn that deals with how to recognize and compensate military personnel who sit in air-conditioned trailers or buildings on U.S. soil as they, with just the click of a computer mouse, employ Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (AKA drones) to kill terrorists on foreign soil.
What was a fictional problem back in 2010 became a troublesome reality on Feb. 13 when the Obama administration announced the Distinguished Warfare Medal (DWM) to recognize the men and women who kill suspected enemy combatants by using armed drones controlled from the United States. Under certain circumstances, the DWM can even be awarded to individuals for fending off a cyber-warfare attack.
Doubtless, service members who kill the enemy or even ward off cyber attacks merit our nation's thanks for their services and even merit a decoration to wear on their uniforms. But just where do you place the DWM in the Order of Preference, within the already existing awards for valor when valor is defined as actually risking your life and limb on or over a foreign field of battle?
Sitting state-side in an air-conditioned van does not put the operator of a computer mouse at risk of life and limb. And there is no "risk" of earning the Purple Heart which is awarded to those who have actually shed their blood on the battlefield in defense of the nation.
Now, let's review the medals awarded for "valor" on the battlefield. The top is the Medal of Honor. Next, come the Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, and Air Force Cross -- all equal in rank. They are followed by the Silver Star. Next is the Distinguished Flying Cross. Then comes the Bronze Star for Valor followed by the Purple Heart. So, guess where the Obama Administration placed the new DWM within the Order of Precedence? Right above the Bronze Star and above the Purple Heart.
For the record, there are two kinds of Bronze Stars: The Bronze Star with "V" for valor is awarded for being on the ground in a combat zone and performing an act of valor on the field of battle. The other Bronze Star is for meritorious service while being on the ground in an active combat zone.
By placing this new DWM above the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, the Obama administration has effectively downgraded the service and sacrifices of those who have earned the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
Maybe not a big deal to the 91 percent of Americans with zero military service. Maybe it's not a big deal in Congress where only 118 members are veterans. But it is degrading to those who have earned their awards on the field of valor. And, even if the awardees are dead, their heirs must feel the valorous achievements of their loved ones have now been diminished.
Congress can fix this injustice by passing a law that places the DWM below the Bronze Star and below the Purple Heart. Meanwhile, GIs are likely to call the DWM the "Mickey Mouse Medal" because, instead of a firearm, it involves a computer mouse. Or, if they feel charitable, the "Mighty Mouse Medal." Given the misplaced ranking of the DWM in the Order of Preference, it is hard to imagine that anyone would want to wear it.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.