bronze star

Debate: Should the Bronze Star Be Given To People Not Engaged in "Direct" Combat?

 Words By Mike Weisbecker.

I happened to catch the Medal Of Honor ceremony on the Pentagon Channel today.  Two medals conferred.  Both for actions in Vietnam.  One was posthumous.  The living recipient was 80 years old and in full Army dress uniform.  Both acts, from the citations read, were what I would consider worthy of our nation’s highest military honor.  No questions about that.

But this made me think of the Bronze Star and the confusion that comes about due to the fact that it can be awarded for meritorious service as well as acts of valor in a combat theater. 

This came to a very heated discussion a few years ago when two Air Force finance specialists were awarded the medal for meritorious service while on their deployments to Afghanistan. 

Why the heat?  Well most folks think of the Bronze Star as a decoration that is awarded like the Silver Star, which can only be awarded for acts of valor in combat.  The distinction when the Bronze Star is awarded for acts of valor is a V device on the medal. 

Ever since then I have noticed when election time rolls around, especially after the war on terror started in 2001, it comes up in campaign commercials.  Lawyer Joe Blow served a tour as a JAG officer with his Guard or Reserve unit, had the glory shot taken in full battle rattle with his sidearm strapped to his side and the voiceover tells his hopeful constituency that he was awarded the Bronze Star.  And most of the folks think “well he faced some shit over there then didn’t he?”  When in fact he maybe just dodged some incoming at the main base in country, just like anyone else based there did.


That’s when we learned about the two ways this medal can be awarded. I learned of the distinction when we wrapped up the initial Desert Storm operation in mid 1991.  I was in an aviation unit and two of our supervisors were put in for Bronze Stars.  Not that they didn’t deserve more than the blanket Achievement Medals we all received.  But many of us were confused.  Sure we had some SCUD attacks and SCUD/Patriot debris rained down from those.  But we weren’t on the front lines.  The weapons some of us carried to the region were collected as soon as we landed, never to be seen by us again. 

The medal is used as a warzone Meritorious Service Medal (MSM).  If it didn’t have the other option to be awarded for valor it wouldn’t rub me wrong that a finance specialist gets the same medal (for all intents and purposes) as a combat controller who gets pinned down by hostile fire and drags two of his buddies to the medevac and gets shot in the calf by doing so. 

Something needs to change.  The award criteria for the Bronze Star needs to be amended to make it for valorous actions only or come up with a medal that could serve as a combat zone MSM.  Or just give them MSM’s. 

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