September 1, 2004
Who really deserves the Bronze Star?
The General got the Croix-de-Guerre,
The son of a gun was not even there
—From “A Mademoiselle From Armentieres,” a World War I soldier’s song banned in most Army camps at the time.
The Bronze and Silver Stars that John Kerry earned in Vietnam, his crewmates will tell you, were the result of his bravery. No, counter his political enemies, Kerry contrived to earn them in order to serve his political aspirations. What permitted him to collect so many medals in so short a time, in fact, was neither extraordinary heroism nor political scheming but the bar on his collar. Kerry was an officer, and like thousands of other officers who have served in combat operations, he was subjected to a more liberal awards process than enlisted men who performed similar feats.
It’s a problem that has continued to plague the military during the Iraq war, causing frustration in the ranks, and it needs to be fixed.
“Sure there’s head-scratching over [Kerry’s] stars, but that’s not his fault,” says one Marine lieutenant colonel and Iraq war veteran who is himself a Bronze Star winner. “There’s a lot of head-scratching in Iraq today. Officers still get higher awards. I’ve never seen anyone turn a medal down. I’d say there’s a double standard except that there’s probably 50 standards when you consider the other services.”