Readers continue the popular thread:
I'm an officer in the Army National Guard, and I've enjoyed your posts on the ridiculousness of ribbon racks in the Army. I'm a junior officer, and I've never cared about ribbons. But I'm an extreme minority. Aside from just ribbons and medals, officers are expected to win foreign awards to wear on their dress uniform. Petraeus famously wore Italian paratrooper wings. The more common award is the German Armed Forces Badge of Military Proficiency, which most junior officers are expected to obtain within the first year of service. You might remember one from the Obama speech on the Afghan surge at West Point – the gray uniforms awkwardly propping up this giant German eagle, all in the name of swag.
After reading the Marine’s description of the actions required to receive a medal in today’s military, it suddenly became clear: this is today’s "everyone is unique and special!" culture permeating the services. My children, now in their mid-20s, received participation trophies for playing on sports teams that finished way back in the rankings; plaques for diving in swim meets regardless of where they placed individually or as a team; and their elementary school teachers awarded blue ribbon stickers and "Great job!" stickers quite routinely – even on assignments that didn’t make the grade. It would make sense that those children, when they entered the military, would feel medals for participating in any capacity are perfectly correct.
Another adds, "And just like rewarding a kid for simply showing up rather than rewarding him or her for a real achievement (like winning), it diminishes the very point of the reward." Another reader has a great story:
In the mid-1990s, I was living in St. Petersburg, Russia. During their celebrations for the 50th anniversary of V-E day, ships from all over the world sailed in to take part – including at least one US Navy ship. I acted as an unofficial translator when Russian and American sailors went out for drinks together, and we got to discussing medals and citations.
The US sailors had many more decorations – ribbons and medals - than their Russian counterparts. And the most amusing snippet of conversation came when I tried to translate what one US sailor's decorations were for. I didn't know the word for "conduct," so I described his good conduct ribbon as being for "good behavior." The Russian sailor looked at me like I had three heads. "Good behavior?" he asked. "What is this, kindergarten? Or the navy?"
(Cartoon from Terminal Lance, an illustrated blog by Lance Corporal Maximilian Uriarte, USMC)