The flare you rarely wear
"The Romans had the right idea. All glory really is fleeting. Still, the military tries to recognize achievements. Sometimes it's cursory. Sometimes its trivial."
The Romans had the right idea. All glory really is fleeting. Still, the military tries to recognize achievements. Sometimes it's cursory. Sometimes its trivial. Sometimes it's even wrong. In any event, the glory, if there is any at all, is surely fleeting.
I should point out that any creep can buy all these medals. The only one that can't be purchased legally is the Medal of Honor. So, without looking at a DD 214, (the discharge certificate) you can't tell if somebody deserves them or not, and some real jerks even forge DD 214s. The number of imposters is really strange. We didn't have them in any other war to nearly the extent of Vietnam. What's even more strange is that in the 60s and 70s you couldn't get people to admit they'd been in Southeast Asia. Now, everybody you meet tells you they or their father were in "Special Ops" and wore a green beret, even if they only typed orders in Texas or weren't in the military at all. Odd.
Both the ribbons and the medals are more or less in order of precedence, reading from left to right, and top down. My ribbon bar is a mess. It doesn't have the Reserve medal on it for one thing, and it has other errors. But I rarely wore the ribbons and I never took it very seriously. At least it doesn't show anything not in my records. I'm entitled to more, probably, but I never pursued it much.
MY MEDALSENLARGEThe DFC is the 8th highest award in the Air Force. I got that for staying alive flying unarmed EC-47s at 10,000 feet over Viet Nam and Laos in 1973-74. I was the mission director and responsible for a) getting us close enough to targets to do our work, and b) not getting us so close that we got shot down. I may have actually earned that medal.
The Meritorious Service Medal (red and white) I got when I retired. It's usually given upon retirement to people who haven't disgraced themselves or their commanders.
The Air Medal (blue and yellow) has 10 oak leaf clusters. Every time a medal is awarded after the first, you get an oak leaf cluster. You can put 4 bronze ones on a ribbon, with five you get a silver one. So mine in the picture is wrong. It should have the ribbon and two silver oak leaves. Well, who cares? I got nine of them for penetrations into typhoons in 1969 to 1973. You got an Air Medal for every ten penetrations and I had 99 of them. And I got two of them in Viet Nam, just for staying alive for a certain number of missions. Must have been 25 each or so. Again, who cares?
Expert Marksmanship (blue and gray) is highly prized in the military, and I qualified for that ribbon early on. But I think I may have fired a weapon once or twice after that.
The Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (red, white and blue stripe down the center) is given to anyone serving in a war overseas. It's how you get into the VFW.
The Reserve Medal is because I was indeed a Reservist, rather than a Regular Officer my entire career. The reservists have pulled this country out of every scrape since the Revolution and probably will again. It's a very proud tradition and I am proud to have been a part of it.
Combat Readiness is awarded when a unit becomes combat ready by virtue of inspection, or as we put it in the Air Force, Operational Readiness Inspection, (ORI). I was in several. Probably the first was the reserve squadron in Portland.
The Longevity ribbon speaks for itself. I had 22 1/2 years of active duty and 3 years of reserve time. Five years, another oak leaf.
The National Defense Service Medal. (red and yellow) I have no idea, but I suspect everyone gets one.
The Vietnam Service Medal (mostly yellow) with 8 clusters. I was in and out for 8 years, and you got a medal for every year.
The AF Outstanding Unit award with the V for Valor is a fairly prestigious ribbon award. Wearing the V is what got one Admiral to kill himself because they found out he wasn't entitled to it. I was. It came with the assignment to the 361st TEWS, the EC-47s. Those squadrons were among the most secret and the most decorated of any AF units in Viet Nam. I may have earned that one. I was in four units that got the Outstanding Unit award, in C-119s, C-141s, C-130s and EC-47s, hence the three oak leaf clusters.
Finally, there are two Vietnamese medals at the lower right which I wasn't actually awarded but which are listed in my records. They're the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Medal with Palm and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. To get them, I had to buy them from a medals company here in the U.S. The pair cost me $75. But I thought they were interesting and since I spent so much of my flying career in that war, I thought they should be in the picture. According to the Department of the Army General Order DA GO 8 1974, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm was awarded to Headquarters U. S. Military Assistance Command (MACV) and all its subordinate units during the period 8 FEB 1962 to 28 MAR 1973. All military personnel who were assigned to units serving in-country Vietnam during this period were considered assigned to MACV and its subordinate units, regardless of service or component.
Aside from the Air Medals and the DFC, it's a pretty undistinguished list. Regular officers get more. Generals get the Defense Distinguished Service Cross if they've been really, really good. Bird Colonels hope for a Legion of Merit. But those medals have nothing to do with either flying or fighting. Only three USAF medals, the Silver Star, the Air Force Cross, and the Medal of Honor supersede the DFC when it comes to the actual Air Force business of flying and fighting, which is why the DFC is looked upon with such esteem. Still, I try to remember that "all glory is fleeting," which is why Patton's words hang on the same "I Love Me" wall as the medals and diplomas.