15 November 2012

Full medal jacket

Consider these portraits of Generals Petraeus and Eisenhower. Petraeus is wearing over 30 ribbons and badges on his uniform. I'm sure he earned each of them. But of that 30, how many civilians will notice that only one item was for heroism (Bronze Star with "V")? Eisenhower earned only ten U.S. decorations (plus countless foreign ones), and - as was the custom of the day - typically wore only three or four at a time...

But the truth is, most accoutrements merely denote successful completion of an assignment, or time spent overseas - not necessarily in combat. Servicemembers can even earn a ribbon for volunteerism in their personal lives... We used to hesitate to adorn soldiers with ribbons, medals, and the like - it smacked of European symbols of nobility. The pendulum has swung too far toward over-recognition of service.
Text and the Petraeus photo via The Dish.   Eisenhower photo cropped from a photo of the 1947 painting at the National Portrait Gallery.


  1. I've heard them called "attaboy" medals

    1. That's true. Remember: In the military, they give us medals instead of stock options.

      Also remember: GEN Patreaus (ret) is wearing his Class A uniform in this photo, as opposed to his ACU/BDU (Battle Dress Uniform), which most Soldiers wear on a daily basis. The salad bar isn't authorized for ACUs, so we generally don't walk around every day with our medals on our chests.

      Not to mention that GEN Patreaus has a MUCH larger collection of medals than your average Soldier (37 years is a long time), so the uniform doesn't usually look quite as "blinged" as the General's does.

    2. Anon at 814am, excellent points. Thank you very much for your service. For without your volunteerism, all our rights would be in immediate peril. Immediate. And if anyone's access to their 1st Amend. right should be completely unabridged it is yours. --A.

    3. b. To qualify for award of the MOVSM a service members volunteer service must meet the
      following requirements:

      (1) Be to the civilian community, to include the military family community.

      (2) Be significant in nature and produce tangible results.

      (3) Reflect favorably on the Military Service and the Department of Defense.

      (4) Be of a sustained and direct nature.

      c. While there is no specific time period to qualify for the MOVSM (for example, 500 hours of
      community service within 24 calendar months)

      500 hours in two years, while maintaining a full-time job that eats into your personal time. Despite training and deployments. That essentially means giving five hours every saturday and sunday that you aren't deployed, training, or having duties. For two years. And for that, you get a piece of ribbon.
      A soldier who delivered pizza for the same amount of time would have earned around five thousand dollars.
      So a soldier devotes his every weekend to the civilian community for two years, passing up material gain or time with his friends, or much earned rest and relaxation. Sounds like he deserves SOMETHING for it.
      Honestly, this award is so hard to get I have NEVER met a soldier who got one. EVER. Despite my being in the army for six years of active duty.

    4. Anonymous (at 11:27), you're siting the "for example, 500 hours" but that's not the minimum requirement - it's just an example that's what it says.

      For the Navy the minimum is only 200 hours, from an official Navy site (http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=71176):

      "The MOVSM is awarded to Sailors who complete a minimum of 200 hours of community service. Constitution awarded 12 Sailors the MOVSM in 2012. The ship is also the recipient of the 2012 President's Volunteer Service Award."

      And according to a military ribbons site (http://www.officialmilitaryribbons.com/military_ribbon_info/usmc_military_ribbons/outstanding_volunteer_service_military_ribbon.html), the service can be spread over three years.

      200 hours spread over three years. 66 hours per year. An hour or two a week. Big deal. I spend more time than that teaching my Sunday school class, and I don't get any ribbons.


  2. Oddly enough, I think there was sort of a stink about military members receiving less high recognition combat medals. I.E. Far less Medal of Honors were being given out compared to earlier wars. So oddly, it seems that we have a situation where the military over decorates for mundane things and under-decorates for actual battlefield bravery. Strange.

  3. In USSR many top generals and general secretaries used to have "full medal armour":
    For instance Leonid Brezhnev:

    1. Yeah, the USSR and USA are moral equivalents, everyone thinks so. --A.

    2. --A, don't be a troll. Even if that is what Aleksejs believes, which is by no means clear, he carefully restricted his comment to a factual contribution to the discussion. Starting an argument over the philosophy that might have produced that comment is disruptive.

      (I wonder if Aleksejs is actually just someone who lived under that regime and was reminded of it?)

    3. Noumenon at 1022am, I do believe it is you who is trying to pick a fight. Nice try. I stand by my succinctly sarcastic observation. If Alexksejs is who you speculate him/her to be, they will so advise if they wish to continue and they consider it material. Now, back to the game... --A.

    4. I don't think Aleksejs will reply, because the sarcasm makes it sound like you're not actually interested in discussion. Yes, I was trying to start a fight, but that's because I think your combative tone is disrupting a comment section that's normally thoughtful and polite. I come here for comments like Anonymous explaining about Class A versus ACU/BDU, but sarcasm leads to replies like that post by --Z instead.

    5. Noumenon at 942p, what if Aleksejs likes sarcasm? So you don't. Ok, so I don't like your comment style, either. Combat me on the subject, instead of how I comment, and this will be far more interesting to both of us, at least. Speaking up for others is not persuasive or contributory. --A.

  4. We used to hesitate to adorn soldiers with ribbons, medals, and the like - it smacked of European symbols of nobility.

    The more ridiculously adorned the more it seems like ham-fisted propaganda, like Gaddafi's comical military outfits or the outrageous pomp of royal formal outfits as mentioned in the quote above. It all seems to be geared to instill awe, blind obedience or acceptance. Anyway, the Emperor has no clothes (in this case literally....)and all that.

  5. Which medal is for adultery? Both Petraeus and Eisenhower should have that medal.

  6. Interesting observation. As an initial reaction . . . I'm inclined to agree.

  7. This sounds like piling on. Gen Petraeus invented COIN. Just like every other human on the planet, he's not perfect. Unlike so many other organizations, the US military specifically prohibits adultery, making it an officially career ending offense. In business, a person's dalliances are considered grounds for firing only if it will result in a PR fight for the company. It is always sad to see a brilliant career end on such an unsavory note. I could recite a long list of other famous, mostly men, who dared to risk such sexual and extra-marital activity, despite its staggering danger. Clinton. Spitzer. Weiner. Vitter. Craig. Foley.

    Here's the real deal about commendable military achievements: lately, post-Korea perhaps, the military noticed that enough vocal complainers started whining about medals and ribbons being dispensed for winning, for victorious acts, for defeating and killing the enemy, for acts of violence that resulted in our soldier living while the enemy died. And so, to placate such clueless whiners, and to incentivize the increasingly self-important recruits, they issue trinkets to appease and label no one a loser, like merit badges, so no one feels left out. Whose fault do you think that is?

    It has also been the trend to be very conservative in dispensing Medals of Honor, and seemingly only for acts of personal sacrifice to directly spare fellow soldiers, e.g. falling on a grenade, versus displaying bravery and ferocity in combating the enemy, which logically results in the same thing, the saving of our soldiers. Of necessity, the military has to be very, very politically sensitive and responsive. This means certain decisions are made that make no sense militarily. That risks our soldiers' lives rather than that of our enemy. That's insane. Insane.

    So, it would appear that we are both not dispensing enough commendations and, to some, giving out too many.

    Do we really think his chest is filled with ribbons for crap? Or are we mad that he's just displaying them all at once? Considering the length of his career, I promise you he is wearing a mere fraction of what he has been awarded. Petraeus was and is very politically astute, so if he were to make a point to wear a ribbon, it would be only those that would offend as few as possible.

    I remember, vividly, when MoveOn dot org attempted to smear him as a true patriot, warrior and fellow citizen by creating an insult out of his surname. Do you remember that? I will never forgive the left for that despicable act and I will never forget.

    And btw, considering how many awards we give each other for things like, oh, pretending to be other people, for selling a lot of albums and for being a really generous donor of dollars, for this warrior to be given a few ribbons to signify and commemorate that he participated in a particular campaign to achieve a nationally mandated goal, for following the orders of the CIC, for being exceptional at a given task, is hardly worthy of us.

    Just as many ignore the peccadilloes of Clinton in favor of his more enduring accomplishments and contributions, they had better do the same for Petraeus. --A.

    1. Thank you for illustrating, yet again, how every important is brevity. --Z

    2. "I remember, vividly, when MoveOn dot org attempted to smear him as a true patriot, warrior and fellow citizen by creating an insult out of his surname. Do you remember that? I will never forgive the left for that despicable act and I will never forget."

      Take a look at what MoveOn actually wrote, not what the talking heads SAY they said. MoveOn actually just asked a question, would he tell us the truth about things were, or would he betray us with lies. We were sent into a war we should have never gotten into by lying politicians and they wanted to know if he would betray us as well. The reason for going into Afghanistan was because the people who attacked us on 9/11 were trained there, and we had good reason to want to shut down those training camps. By taking the eye off the ball and pushing us into Iraq, when Iraq had not actually attacked us has gotten a LOT of people killed, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan. If it was really necessary for us to go into Iraq, then finish the bloody war in Afghanistan FIRST, then go against Iraq. As it is, yes, we might leave Afghanistan with honor, but like Iraq we didn't finish the job we went there to do in the first place.

      On another note, let it be pointed out that Eisenhower spend most of his career in the US, with only one assignment in the Philippines, and only saw combat during World War Two; during World War One he didn't leave the country. Petraeus on the other hand saw service in at least three and possibly up to six separate conflicts; Desert Storm, Iraq and Afganistan, along with possibly service in Korea. He could have also seen service in both Grenada and in Panama. One of the medals that I recognize also means that he served a tour of duty in Germany as well (one of his ribbons is awarded for service in overseas theaters where another ribbon is not otherwise awarded), so the comparison between their two careers is very much different.

    3. DaBris at 1254a, so if someone were to co-opt your family name for their political ends, twisting it into an insult, you'd be ok with that? How about your sister's given name? That's the best idea MoveOn could come up with to make their dubious point? So you feel no relationship with Gen Petraeus as a fellow human and he actually deserved to be so abused? Just because he's a volunteer military service member and exceptionally good at it?

      I read the MoveOn ad in the NYT. I watched Gen Petraeus testify before Congress during which MoveOn's vile, craven tactic was specifically brought up. I saw the twinge of dismay and incredulity flit across his face. He wasn't going to let it him knock him down but it did bother him. He was thinking of the impact on his family, which clearly MoveOn didn't give a crap about.

      MoveOn shot themselves in the face when they chose to abuse a veteran and his entire family, fellow citizens, with their obscene word play. They could not have alienated an entire half of the nation any faster if they tried. I know what they claim to have intended but I don't give a crap because of how they went after it. It was repellent in the extreme. There is no defense for it. So you're one of those who think 3000 civilians must die first? People must die before we take pre-emptive action? Are you saying you demand that murderous price, and do you consider yourself a defender of innocent life--unless it's those on X soil? Do you really think we went to war purely because of what one general may or may not have said? Do you think our self-hating American media has been honest, thorough and unbiased in their reporting about him, or anything, for that matter?

      As for finishing what we start: we keep TRYING to be done, but it is exactly those who keep preventing us from WINNING who prolong our involvement. Should we fight to lose? Let. Our. Military. Be. Victorious. And. It. Would. Be. OVER. A. Long. Time. Ago. With. Far. Fewer. Lives. Lost. On. All. Sides. But. Nooooooo. Too many Americans feel guilty about being the prevailing party so we cow our own warriors into slouching and slinking to a sputtering ignominious stop so we can feel more "humanitarian." As if that comes only by a straight string from you to the defeated.

      After we made Japan surrender, what happened to them? Did they reconstitute their army after we disbanded it in order to wage kamikaze against the Allies again anyway? Did they disappear from the globe in a puddle of unique-to-evil-America-style emasculation or did we do the nation build, which idea we currently regard with political schizophrenia? Did they become our everlasting worst enemy? --A.

      Anony Z. at 857p, stick to twitter.

    4. Good points, especially the one about post-war Japan. Too many people these days cannot see the bigger picture about both sides' very minor human sacrifices in modern wars when compared to wars of the past. Too many people these days are also unable to read more than a paragraph in a discussion, unless it has a twitter length number of characters.

    5. Alexov54 at 235p, you make a good point as well about modern casualty count. I tire of trying to remind fellow commenters of the enormous human cost in 20th century wars. It's as if history is not being taught anymore or it is but with little attention to material facts of consequential events. Or, more disturbingly, against patriotism if American. Don't get me started about the Socratic Method. --A.

  8. I did a quick Google search and they both seem to have served about 37 years after West Point. How many different "theaters" each had an opportunity to serve in I'll leave to someone else to figure out. I don't care who Petraeus boffed, I'm just mildly curious about the possible cultural change in the display of these ribbons -be interesting to get a higher definition photo so someone knowledgeable could identify them.

  9. Somewhere, I seem to remember it as an old Horizon mag, is an article that posits a correlation between plain/fancy military clothing and overall success. The examples that spring to mind are Lee and Grant at Appomattox: Confederate officer uniforms were generally more ornate than their Yankee counterparts (Lee wore his best uniform, complete with braid up to his elbow; Grant wore a mid-spattered 4-button blouse with only his shoulder boards to signify rank). Another example might be Colonial French and Vietnamese.

  10. Two links to two news reports re a WWII vet finally receiving medals he earned but due to various errors, never received, until now.

    "Rep. Candice Miller to honor WWII vet

    "U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, will honor a World War II veteran at 11 a.m. today at her Shelby Township office, 48701 Van Dyke Ave.."

    "HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A World War II veteran who once hitched a ride on a Tiger tank courtesy of Gen. Erwin Rommel, Germany's legendary Panzer commander, has finally received the medals he never got after the war.

    "William Pollauf, 92, of Algonac, Mich., was honored Friday by U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., who presented the former German prisoner of war with several overdue honors for his military service.

    "A bureaucratic mix-up had prevented Pollauf from receiving medals he earned in World War II, including one for the 27 months he was a prisoner of war.

    "He also received the World War II Victory medal, Eastern/African/Middle Eastern campaign medal, Prisoner of War medal and a World War II honorable service lapel button.

    "Pollauf was serving with the Army's 443 Division, Field Artillery Division B Battery, in Tunisia, when his unit was captured and taken to Stalag 7A, near Munich, according to DetroitNews.com.

    "He spent time in two other camps before being liberated by the Russians in 1945, TheTimesHerald.com reports.

    "Pollauf returned to Michigan after the war and worked as a carpenter.

    "Rep. Miller told DetroitNews.com she was "delighted to present the medals, long overdue" to Pollauf.

    "The Associated Press Contributed to this report."

    When I read this report, it reminded me of this discussion. --A.

  11. Somebody appears to have neglected the very long time Eisenhower spent as CinC SHAEF from 1943 onwards in ENGLAND and later in FRANCE and finally in GERMANY.
    As opposed to, one posting in the Philippines.

  12. Different medals, different uniforms, different times. How this becomes a left/right debate is beyond understanding except that it is unnecessary. Both men served the United States well, and being human, both had their flaws. One cannot deny their competence in difficult circumstances, their flairs of brilliance when the occasion warranted, and diplomatic skills that were essential given the coalitions and egos they were juggling (anyone who thinks the Afghans and Pakistanis are difficult should do some reading on Eisenhower negotiating between the British and the French, and Montgomery and Patton).

    I am thankful for their service.

  13. These days we feel tiny. I guess that's why we have those special soldiers too. A regular soldier is not very skilled i guess the thinking goes. Everything has to be special.


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