(Washington, D.C.) --"While we welcome the introduction of the new Distinguished Warfare Medal, we have serious disagreement with its ranking above both the Bronze Star for Valor and the Purple Heart," said John Rowan, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America, in reaction to the announcement by outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
"We certainly agree, as the Secretary stated, that this award 'recognizes the reality of the kind of technological warfare that we've engaged in in the 21st century,' a so-called commuter combat pilot far from the battlefield, no matter how significant a role s/he may play in surveillance or battle, is far removed from the battlefield," Rowan said.
"No matter how crucial their role may be, it cannot compare to the warfighter who is placed in harm's way, facing enemy bullets and bombs, committing selfless acts of valor, getting wounded, sometimes mortally, while in contact with the enemy.
"Sitting in front of a computer monitor, engaging in remote-control combat, simply does not compare to facing a real enemy shooting at you," Rowan said. "We hope and we trust that the next Secretary of Defense, who served honorably as a combat veteran during the Vietnam War, will rethink this and reorient the order in which the new ribbon is placed.
"We would also hope that the Secretary will consider the issuance of a Combat Aero-Medic Badge to acknowledge the medics and corpsmen who served aboard medevac helicopters during and after the war in Vietnam," Rowan added. "These men were never recognized for the performance of their duties under extreme circumstances as they were not assigned to the units they were ministering to. This is an injustice that needs to be fixed," Rowan said, "and the fix is fairly easy."