Recently, it was announced by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that drone pilots, who command their craft remotely, are eligible for medals of commendation. Unfortunately, this medal has been granted a higher prestige level than combat-based medals such as the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
The fact that an individual who is not serving in an active combat area is eligible to receive an award that supersedes a combat-based medal is wrong. In recognition of this slight, Senator Pat Toomey and others questioned former Secretary Panetta and his successor Secretary Chuck Hagel regarding this matter. As a result of the persistence exhibited by Senator Toomey and Veterans groups, the DOD has announced it will review the order of precedence.
As an Army Infantry veteran of the Vietnam Era who served defending Freedom's Western Frontier on the East German and Czech borders against the Warsaw Pact totalitarians, a non-combat zone with more citizen-soldiers serving there than we had deployed in Vietnam, I learned this about military service and courage -- there are three levels: stepping forward to take the oath at enlistment, accepting an assignment to a combat zone, and showing bravery when under fire.
Drone operators are doing very important work in taking out threats, but they go home after shift change, not having shown the courage of the others receiving the traditional combat service medals. It is a lower level of courage and should be granted only a lower level of recognition.
Let us thank Senator Toomey and the Veterans groups that have and continue to work on this matter. Hopefully these efforts will create an order of precedence that properly recognizes combat veterans.
Thom Rippon, Mifflinburg