It’s about time!

For some time, the US military has been investigating medals awarded for valor in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It’s been postulated that some actions should have been recognized at a considerably higher level than the medals that were actually awarded.  Military.com tells us that several Medals of Honor may be conferred as a result.

Four Medals of Honor. Thirty Service Crosses. Twenty-three Silver Stars. After a three-year review of medals for military heroism in conflicts following Sept. 11, 2001, the Pentagon has upgraded 57 awards for valor — and so far, sailors are the biggest beneficiaries.

Officials told Military.com that the review, which was launched in 2016 and will formally conclude on Dec. 31, assessed roughly 1,400 awards in all, presented by the four Defense Department services. Some four Army awards have yet to be announced — officials would not characterize these awards, however, and whether, as some suspect, more Medals of Honor could be forthcoming.

There’s more at the link.

It’s just been revealed that one of those Army awards is, indeed, to be upgraded from a Silver Star to a Medal of Honor.

A former Army staff sergeant who took on enemy fighters at close range, first with an M249 light machine gun and then with a knife, will be the first living veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom to receive the Medal of Honor, Military.com has learned.

David S. Bellavia, 43, of Batavia, New York, will have his Silver Star upgraded to the highest military award for valor in a June 25 ceremony at the White House, a source close to Bellavia confirmed to Military.com. The news of the award was first posted at the American Legion’s Burn Pit blog Thursday and then confirmed by Army Times. The White House is expected to announce the award next week.

Bellavia’s Silver Star citation, for heroism on Nov. 10, 2004, in Fallujah, Iraq, reads like the script of an action movie.

Again, more at the link.

I’ve read SSgt Bellavia’s book, “House to House“.  It’s an extraordinary chronicle of combat, right up there with many of the best combat memoirs from earlier wars.

What I still don’t understand is why it’s taken so long to review some of these awards, and make the decision to upgrade them.  It’s bureaucratic process gone mad!  This should have happened within, at most, a year or two.  Back in World War II, the decision to award a Medal of Honor was frequently taken within weeks of the incident concerned.  Why is it so much more difficult to do so today?

Unfortunately, for the highest awards, it was much the same in South Africa.  During my service, that country’s highest award for valor in action, equivalent to the US Medal of Honor, was the Honoris Crux Diamond.  Sadly, despite several incidents that popular opinion in the SA Defense Force considered fully worthy of the HCD, that medal was never awarded – a travesty of justice, in my opinion.  There were never any reasons given, except that no individual act was considered (by the military bureaucracy) to rise to the level necessary for its award.  It was generally thought among the troops that one would have to actually be killed during a display of valor to get the HCD.  That’s what the bureaucrats seemed to think was a necessary part of the award, anyway.  That thought probably devalued or degraded the award in the eyes of those for whom it was intended – the men in uniform.  Surely they knew best what constituted valor and deserved appropriate recognition, rather than rear-echelon military bureaucrats?

I wonder whether some sort of political correctness played a part in the delay in recognizing such extraordinary feats of valor?  Is it, perhaps, the case, in these benighted modern times, that honoring someone for acts of extreme violence, even if self-sacrificial in nature, is no longer considered appropriate?  I can’t help but think that delays of well over a decade must surely be caused by something other than mere routine processing of the awards.  What say you, military readers and veterans?

Peter

11 comments

  1. For an examination of the heroic deed evaluation process in the British and Commonwealth militaries, check out M.C. Smith’s “Awarded for Valour.”

    https://www.amazon.com/Awarded-Valour-Victoria-Evolution-Strategic/dp/0230547052/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=awarded+for+valour&qid=1560165659&s=gateway&sr=8-4

    It covers the development and evolution of the Victoria Cross from inception to the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. It specifically examines the development of the concept that to win a VC “you have to kill someone” and that it helps your chances of winning one to get killed in the process yourself. This is why there were over 600 VCs in World War I, but fewer than 200 in WW II. The criteria was changed at the end of the Great War, purposefully making it much more difficult to win one.

  2. It is possible that part of the reason for the delay is that the reviewing wasn’t able to happen properly until President Trump was elected? He seems to be more a friend of the military than the last one.

  3. Not sure which is right:

    1. Obama administration wanted to downplay military actions in the Middle East by the us, and the perfumed princes gave them that with fewer metals.

    2. Fear of being like Vietnam, where metals were given too freely, especially to officers.

    3. Bureaucratic cya – safer to assign / give / approve a lower level medal, than push for the correct level of medal.

    4. Bush 2 – Not sure why.

  4. You have touched a very sensitive nerve here. I’ve been upset for years that it takes over 7 years to award a Medal of Honor. As with punishment recognition for valor should be swift and I think a year is plenty time to validate and award. The length of time its now taking is a direct indication of a leadership failure at the top levels of Command and at the Department of Defense. I could lecture on but I’m sure you get the idea I’m trying to convey. This situation needs to be fixed and fixed now.

    Sadly I see no veterans organizations taking up the cause.

  5. Because the reviews are often done by REMF’s and paperwork warriors, who wouldn’t know valor if it bit them in the ass. Least that’s what my friends tell me.

    Plus the US has a long history of not awarding major valor for political reasons.

  6. Sadly, this seems to be a cyclical issue. The CMOH was downgraded during the late 1800s, especially in the Navy, after several had been given out for Life Saving from ships (Man Overboard recoveries). Also, during the period of the First World War, Marines were “double awarded”, getting both Army and Navy CMOHs for the same action. During the corrections for those conditions, the requirements for the CMOH became stricter. There used to be a pretty good chance for the Medal for throwing yourself on a grenade, but not so much anymore. Now, with the witness requirements and the “Modern Worldview” it takes way too long and is unbelievably difficult. A new balance needs to be found, but I don’t see how. . .

  7. Well, to make you feel better, the review committees are still reviewing awards recommendations from previous conflicts, like, oh, say, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Gulf War I, and every small military excursion since WWI.

    Seriously. From Purple Hearts to Medals of Honor, the process is still grinding slowly, so slowly, over recommendations to people who now have died of old age from actions that occurred when they were teenagers.

    Part of the problem is the squeaky wheel syndrome. As in, the squeaky politician who interferes with the process, either positively or negatively. And the makeup of the recommendation boards affects awards also (if the board hates the candidate… well, there’s a reason some recommendations, though extremely valid, have been stonewalled…)

    Cleaning up the process sounds like a good task for a Trump assistant. MMGA. Make Medals Great Again!

    Seriously. I would easily consider that Major William Leverette (retired Col. William Leverette, USAAF, USAF) easily qualified for a MOH during his actions on Oct. 9, 1943. But noo…. Between the Med being almost as forgotten as the Central Pacific and bureaucratic issues, Col. Leverette, who should be a household name up there with Bong (okay, a household name from when we actually taught heroes in school,) has remained an unknown hero.

  8. That’s a really good book. I own a copy, and think I’ll re-read it again. It was in my “to re-read” stack, but will move to the top.

  9. I am reminded of a passage from one of Col. Ton Kratman’s short stories. Paraphrased as:

    “Son, if I allowed this award to go through, there would be questions about why we kept warriors like him to remain on the rolls. The media would start screaming about war crimes – which this ISN’T- and the liberals would take up the chorus, pandering for votes…”

  10. Awards in the US military are simultaneously ridiculously over-inflated and at the same time, very under-done for valor.

    My take on it would be that the grown-ups ought to shut the whole damn thing down, tell the services that they’re not allowed to issue awards for a generation, and then maybe start the whole thing up again in a couple of generations, once all the people with the bad habits are dead and/or retired.

    Root issue with most of the awards is that the system is utterly corrupt. When you have a command say that “Bronze Stars will only be awarded to Sergeant’s First Class and above…”, and then refuse to issue legitimate awards to the young men and women who were actually out doing the work…? Yeah. Right. My command told me when we were leaving Iraq the second time that I needed to submit an awards packet, going over what I’d “accomplished” in theater, so they could write me up for a Bronze Star. I was incredulous that a.) they had the balls to tell me to basically write myself up, and that b.) I was going to be even considered for such an award, when they’d stuck my ass up at Division for an LNO slot that had to be filled. I spent the entire tour doing night shift in the Division headquarters, and they thought I deserved a Bronze Star for that? WTF?

    Meanwhile, my subordinates back in the unit? They weren’t “authorized” anything higher than a “Letter of Commendation”, and some of them had spent most of their tours outside the wire running PSD convoys all over Northern Iraq. One of my guys saved a couple of lives, at risk of his own, and the assholes running the PSD couldn’t be bothered to write him up for anything, let alone an award.

    I looked at all that, and let it be known that if they saddled me with an award, I was going to embarrass the f**k out of them at any award ceremony they had the ill-wisdom to force on me, and I promised to run any award they gave me through the shredder. Also did a drug deal with my friend the Personnel Admin NCOIC to divert anything with my name on it before it got to my official records, because I flatly refused to participate in that bullshit.

    They didn’t call me on the day the self-congratulatory little freaks were doing their awards ceremonies, but when we were getting ready to leave, some ass handed me a folder in the Operations Center, and told me “Hey, here’s your award…”. Right face, walked over to the shredder, and put it through the damn thing in front of the Brigade Commander. Universal looks of shock, all the way around. I didn’t say a damn thing to any of them.

    What was funny? Y’know how awards are supposed to support morale, and represent the respect of your peers for your performance and valor? I had more junior enlisted come up to me after that incident got reported through the grapevine than you could shake a stick at, and they all had about the same thing to say, which was that they thought I’d done the right thing, and they respected me more for that than they did the rest of assholes around us.

    Awards. The US military is doing them wrong, wrong, wrong. Biggest problem is that they allowed them to be captured by the careerists, and serve as a discriminator for promotions. Which turned them into a glorified politicized mess of merit-badge seeking behavioral rewards, and utterly corrupted the entire process.

  11. The slime generals we had over there are there for the last 17 year are worst in history. They are a reflection on how 3 and 4 stars are direct political appointees. And if I didn’t mention it, they are slimey despicable SOBs. Loathsome.

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