Monday, September 26, 2005

Eight ribbons?

I saw a photo of PFC England, the woman that was convicted of the abuse of prisinors in Iraq and was struck by the ribbons on her chest -- 8 of them. She's an E3, hasn't been in the Army long, and somehow managed to acquire 8 decoration? What the hell are those things for?

I know the military has been inventing silly reasons to give decorations to soldiers, to try to make them feel like warriors. But eight? To a soldier who's never really done anything except serve in a combat zone? Has it gotten to the point that military decorations don't mean anything anymore?

I went on active duty in the Navy as in E3 (I was in the reserve) in 1967, did one tour in Vietnam on a destroyer on the DMZ Gunline, got released from active duty in 1968 (still an E3) with three authorized ribbons -- the "alive in 65" ribbon that everyone on active dury wore, a vietnam campaign ribbon, and a ribbon for a unit citation that the ship received for combat action. That was it,and that was fairly typical. If that same service was repeated today I'd have a few more ribbons, for example the Navy gives a decoration for sea duty these days, they didn't used to do that. But, eight?

To provide an example of why I think 8 ribbons on a PFC who never saw any direct combat here's a crew photo from 1968. Everyone in this photo is a returning combat vet, on a ship that at the time had one of the most decorated destroyer crews in the Navy. One of the sailors was an E4, one an E2,the rest E3. Look closely at the single row of ribbons they are all wearing, and compare that to the photo of England.

Our military has just gotten silly. The army used to have specitialy units that wore various colored berets as some kind of method of establishing elite status -- Green Berets for Special Forces, for example. Then a few years ago they decided that they didn't want anymore elitism, so they made cheap berets standard head wear for the military. And, I do mean cheap. Have you ever actually seen one of those things close up?

I don't know, maybe I'm just an old, grumpy fart. But, it used to be that if you saw a soldier on their first enlistment with 3 rows of ribbons you could be pretty sure you were looking at a bona fide war hero who had distinguished themselves in combat in a big way. And, I dont' think PFC England qualifies in that regard.

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