Today, U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter, a Marine veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, commended Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's decision to review the order of precedence for the Distinguished Warfare Medal (DWM).
"Reordering the precedence of the DWM is a simple fix, but there will need to be some willingness on the part of decision makers within the Pentagon to admit this was a bad idea," said Representative Hunter. "The Secretary's decision at least gives Congress the green light to proceed. With legislation in the House and Senate and the annual defense authorization process around the corner, there are still opportunities to prevent the DWM from rating higher than traditional combat valor awards.
"The DWM is widely viewed as an award that undermines all other valor awards and the reverence for servicemembers who face the dangers of direct combat. It's a fact that those who are off the battlefield do not experience the same risks. Pretending they do devalues the courageous and selfless actions of others, who, during combat, do the unthinkable or show a willingness to sacrifice their own lives.
"The decision to rate the DWM so high represents everything that's wrong with the awards process. Acts of valor in Iraq and Afghanistan have been underrepresented, with only 11 Medals of Honor awarded. There are soldiers, including Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe and Captain Will Swenson, and Marines, such as Sergeant Rafael Peralta, as well as many others, who have so far been failed by the awards process. Correcting these cases among others is how we can restore integrity to the awards process--not by creating a whole new award that, because of its rating, is seen to diminish authentic combat valor and sacrifice."
Representative Hunter introduced H.R. 833, prohibiting the DWM from rating higher than or equal to the Purple Heart. The legislation currently has 56 cosponsors.
A recent column by Representative Duncan Hunter (USA Today), specific to the DWM, includes a previous explanation from the Department of Defense regarding the changing nature of warfare.