Medals Authorized for Soldiers Participating in Hurricane Relief
Service members who participated in relief operations for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have been authorized to wear the Humanitarian Service Medal and/or the Armed Forces Service Medal.
Storm-relief medals authorized (Army Times)
The Joint Staff has authorized the award of the Humanitarian Service Medal and Armed Forces Service Medal to soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and members of the Coast Guard Ã¢€” active, Guard and Reserve Ã¢€” who participated in relief operations for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Humanitarian Service Medal is authorized for those who supported immediate relief operations in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas Ã¢€” east of 96 degree west longitude Ã¢€” from Aug. 29 to Oct. 13, 2005. The Armed Forces Service Medal is authorized for those who provided, or are providing, direct support to relief efforts for 30 consecutive days, or 60 nonconsecutive days anywhere in the United States from Aug. 27, 2005, to Feb. 27, 2006.
While I certainly don’t begrudge soldiers these awards, it is highly unusual to authorize two “I was there” medals for the same operation, even in wartime. Generally, one service or campaign medal is authorized per operation.
Times have changed for military awards. My dad spent twenty years in the Army, including a stint in Vietnam, retiring as a First Sergeant in 1982. Including the Meritorious Service Medal he was awarded upon retirement, he had five medals on his uniform (although he had several oak leaves representing multiple awards of the Army Commendation Medal plus multiple service stars on his Vietnam Service Medal). That was normal. My first battalion commander, also a Vietnam Vet, had maybe six or seven medals when I reported to Germany in 1989.
In the early 1980s, the Services created several new awards, including the various Achievement Medals, NCO Professional Development Ribbons, and medals for completing initial entry training. This was done because, after a longish period of peace, soldiers had few medals and medals were thought to boost morale. Of course, that’s generally true only of earned medals not those given out like candy.
I spent the first three years of my active duty stint with only the lowly Army Service Ribbon (dubbed “the Rainbow Ribbon” after its appearance) representing completion of Field Artillery Officer Basic Course. Considering that the mere fact I was at a unit meant that, by definition, I had completed said course, I valued that ribbon very lightly. Then, my unit got deployed to Desert Shield/Desert Storm. By the time it was all over with, I had eight awards on my “rack” — a Bronze Star, an Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal (with three battle stars), Overseas Service Ribbon, the Rainbow Ribbon, and two Liberation of Kuwait Medals, one from the Saudis and another from the Kuwaitis–to go along with my Airborne and Air Assault wings.
Because of a rather generous awards policy–as demonstrated by the medals for flood relief–and a high operations tempo, it is not unusual to see mid-career soldiers with ten or more ribbons on their uniforms. It’s an interesting way to show at a glance what missions a soldier has participated in but one can’t help but wonder how much pride they instill, given how easily most are awarded.