One of the last acts of Leon E. Panetta as secretary of defense was to create a new medal to be awarded to those who direct the military's lethal drones in strikes against terrorists ("Pentagon uproar over Panetta's hero medals for drone operators, cybersleuths," Web, Feb. 15). Identification badges or emblems for specific kinds of work are normal for the military and recognition of the special skills involved in piloting the drones is certainly worthwhile.
Some might question whether a medal is called for here, but I can remember when an enlisted man stayed out of jail and did not get demoted for 12 months, he received a Good Conduct Medal -- thus, the medal precedent has been established. What is disturbing is that in the hierarchy of medals, the new Distinguished Warfare Medal, awarded for skill, ranks higher than the Bronze Star, which is awarded for valor. Both are highly desirable, but they are not to be confused.
Indeed, one does not have to be very smart to be valorous -- take my word for it, I have a Bronze Star -- while intelligence, I think, is necessary to pilot a drone. Valor and skill are two different attributes, both valuable. If we begin to value skill over valor, however, we may end up with a highly skilled but not very successful military.
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