U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today commended Defense Secretary Charles Hagel for cancelling the creation of a Distinguished Warfare Medal, which would have ranked some non-combat awards, such as those for drone pilots and cyber warriors, ahead of awards earned by those in combat. At the urging of North Dakota veteran organizations, Heitkamp called on Hagel to reconsider the Department's decision. Hagel contacted Heitkamp Monday to notify her of the Department's decision.
"I commend Secretary Hagel for considering our concerns and cancelling the Department's previous decision," said Heitkamp. "We certainly should honor our non-combat service members, as their role in our military is crucial, but I agree with North Dakota veteran organizations in that the honor should not outrank those given to individuals who serve on the battlefield."
In February, the Distinguished Warfare Medal was announced by the Department of Defense. The new decoration would have been ranked above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Heitkamp and others felt that it would diminish the significance of awards earned by those who risked their lives in direct combat. Hagel said Monday that, following a review he ordered, he has determined that a separate award will not be necessary and that the recognition would best be accomplished by attaching a device to current medals that will distinguish the award as non-combat related.