Oswego (WSYR-TV) - The Pentagon’s first new combat-related medal in 70 years is coming under fire.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal recognizes extraordinary contributions to combat operations from afar, such as drone pilots.
The new medal ranks higher than the celebrated Purple Heart, which is reserved for those injured in combat, and VFW Commanders in Oswego call the new medal a slap in the face to those who have served on the battlefield.
"I'm not putting drone operators down, but they don't face the adversity that the combat soldier does,” said George Hoffman, Jr., Commander, Oswego VFW Post 2320.
Opponents have come up with creative names for the medal including: the Nintendo Medal, the Distant Warfare Medal, and the Purple Buttocks.
They claim the medal, which also ranks higher than the bronze medal, is given to those who operate from the comfort of their chairs.
The other pilots and stuff over there flying are in harm’s way. That’s a different story, but somebody sitting in Syracuse or Rome…I mean they’re doing a great job and should be recognized,” said David Rice, Commander, Oswego VFW Post 5885.
The veterans in Oswego would like to see the award downgraded. A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress agree and they’ve written a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that says: “We are supportive of recognizing and rewarding such extraordinary service, but in the absence of the service member exposing him or herself to imminent mortal danger, we cannot support the DWM taking precedence above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.”
"Drone operators are doing a fantastic job and I believe that maybe there should be another medal in their honor,” continued Hoffman.
The DWM was approved last month by then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who said it would offer recognition to men and women whose efforts aren’t eligible under other combat-related medals, like drone pilots and cyber-war experts.