Washington- Over 5,000 military current, and former military service members have signed a petition urging the White House to demote a new combat medal arranged specially for drone pilots.
It’s been an emotional debate inside the Department of Defense, with the big question asking; can drone pilots receive combat medals? The secretary of defense Leon Panetta created the new medal naming it the Distinguished Warfare Medal.
The medal ranks higher then a Purple Heart or a Bronze Star two extraordinary honors, both received for direct combat service. “How is it possible that you can be shot, and sacrifice so much… while others play video games and receive a higher ranking medal, said retired Naval Lt. CMDR Dan Rhamy.
“It’s a slap in the face, these guys are in noway in danger. They don’t deserve combat recognition,” Rhamy said.
Now veterans groups are calling on the Secretary of Defense to demote the drone medal. The secretary argues that, because these pilots sometimes watch their targets for days before killing the people on the ground, the drone pilots suffer through deeply stressful situations and deserve recognition.
“I don’t doubt that it’s a stressful job, but they are taking no personal risk. There is no chance that they will spiral down into a flaming crash. It’s not real combat,” says Rhamy. The Lt. has flown more then 400 missions and says he’s been fired on hundreds of times.
Rhamy has over a dozen medals, but he says if the drone medals aren’t demoted it makes his medals “feel cheaper.”