Morale: Heroic Deeds Kept Secret

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December 13, 2007: A growing source of discontent in the U.S. military is the Department of Defense policy of not releasing to the public the official descriptions ("narratives") of what soldiers did to receive medals. This especially applies to two of the three highest awards; the Silver Star (number 3) and the Distinguished Service Cross (number 2). There are very few Medals of Honor awarded, and the military does not restrict access to the narratives for these.

A growing number of military personnel, and civilians, are pressuring the Department of Defense to change their policy. Some members of Congress are threatening to enact laws to force the release of these narratives. There is currently no law restricting public access to these narratives. The military insist they are keeping the narratives secret in order to protect the privacy of troops receiving these awards, and for operational security (not letting the enemy know of secret military techniques). Active duty troops and veterans generally consider this nonsense, and blame the "cover your ass" attitude in the Pentagon for the policy.

Since September 11, 2001, about 400 military personnel have received Silver Stars and Distinguished Service Crosses. All the military releases is their name, where the heroic event took place and the home town of the recipient. Awards like this have been around since antiquity. The Romans had a number of them, and the point of it all was to publicly honor those who did extraordinary things in combat. Napoleon Bonaparte is credited with reviving the practice in modern times, and he was quick to note that publicizing these things was important. But times have changed, or have they?

 


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