Six Flags No Longer Awards Combat Action Ribbon

medals-silver-star-bronze-star-purple-heart

Six Flags is among many organizations coming under fire for awarding military medals to their employees.

Marine Times (“Six Flags park in Illinois cancels use of military ribbons for security guards’ uniforms“):

Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Ill., has confirmed that their security guards will no longer wear repurposed military ribbons on their uniforms after a former Marine corporal issued complaints about the policy.

Robert Smith, an infantryman who served in the Corps during the first Gulf War, said he recently showed his son the awards he earned during his time as a Marine. But when they walked through the ticket gates at the Six Flags amusement park on Saturday, his son pointed to the security guards and told Smith they were wearing ribbons just like his.

“I saw a 23- or 24-year-old wearing a Combat Action Ribbon with two gold stars,” Smith told Marine Corps Times. “Another guy had four rows of three ribbons. I know gunnery sergeants or staff sergeants when I was in that didn’t even have that many.”

Smith said he asked the security guard wearing the Combat Action Ribbon what the stars stood for, and he said they represented reuniting lost children with their parents. All day at the park, Smith said he was offended every time he saw another security guard’s ribbon rack.

[…]

Marine Corps Times contacted Six Flags Great America on Monday to inquire about their ribbon program. By Tuesday, the park cancelled their use of repurposed Defense Department ribbons.

“We have the utmost respect for the men and women who serve our country and the rewards and recognition they earn,” said Katy Enrique, communications manager with the park. “It was never our intention to undervalue military ribbons by using them as part of our park’s recognition program.”

The uniform policy was not a company-wide policy, so only applied to the Illinois location, Enrique said.

[…]

In July, Navy Cross recipient Jeremiah Workman called the police department in Sanford, Fla., after he saw one of their officers take the stand in the George Zimmerman trial. Workman questioned why she was wearing ribbons she couldn’t have rated.

Like Six Flags, Sanford was using Defense Department ribbons repurposed for their own use. Within days of Workman’s call, that department also changed its ribbons policy.

While it’s just silly of these organizations to use military ribbons and badges rather than creating their own, I’m rather bemused at the outraged reactions of the veterans in the story. I’m proud of my skill badges and awards but am not going to lose sleep over it if some guy at Six Flags is wearing the same strip of cloth or hunk of tin. The security guard isn’t pretending to have seen combat nor are most people who see a policeman wearing ribbons going to think they got them in the Marine Corps.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Donald Sensing says:

    Except that one year not long ago (I think 2008) the NDAA made it legal for honorably-discharged veterans, retirees and active duty persons to wear their ribbons on appropriate civilian attire. The intention was for patriotic holidays such as 4th of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, service birthdays and the like.

    I disagree with you on this issue, James. Military awards, especially combat-related awards, are uniquely meaningful. It has been illegal falsely to wear the Medal of Honor for decades. Do you think if Six Flags wanted to hand out MOH replicas it should be able to do so? If not, why exclude the MOH but not the Bronze Star or Purple Heart?

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Donald Sensing: The Medal of Honor is instantly recognizable in a way that the Combat Action Ribbon isn’t. Indeed, I wouldn’t have recognized it.

    I agree that it’s a bad idea for Six Flags or even police forces to use real military medals. I just don’t think using some of the lesser ribbons is a great affront to the military.

  3. Pinky says:

    James, I’m surprised at your opinion. I find this really offensive. I’ve never served, but my father did, and I’m offended for his sake as well as for every other member of the military, past and present.

  4. Part of the problem here is that a lot of the medal ribbons are rather generic. The Combat Action ribbon, at least, is complex enough to be distinctive. But it seems ridiculous to suggest that the US military some how claims exclusive use of a navy blue box with a white stripe.

  5. Andy says:

    I don’t have an issue with “repurposing” lesser awards. But anything from a Bronze Star up, and any combat-related award should not be repurposed IMO.

  6. @Pinky:

    I’m offended for his sake as well as for every other member of the military, past and present.

    I’m far more offended by the assertion that you’re entitled to speak for everyone who’s ever served or will serve in the military.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    Harley Davidson will still let people without motorcycles buy and wear their t-shirts.

  8. PJ says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Harley Davidson will still let people without motorcycles buy and wear their t-shirts.

    Hells Angels, on the other hand, won’t.

    😉

  9. C. Clavin says:

    @ PJ….
    Actually…they sell t-shirts and stuff…but if I were you I wouldn’t try wearing their “colors”.
    http://www.hells-angels.com/?HA=support

  10. Pinky says:

    @Stormy Dragon: That’s a silly reading of what I’m saying. Of course military personnel have the right to any opinion they want. Or – wait a second – do you and people on your political side really think you speak with the full moral authority of anyone whom you stand up for? Like, if you say that a policy will help a minority, and we laugh at you because the policy is bad, do you think we’re laughing at the minority? That’d explain a lot.

  11. @Pinky:

    do you and people on your political side really think you speak with the full moral authority of anyone whom you stand up for?

    What I really think is that everyone else on this blog is laughing about the fact you think I’m a liberal.

  12. Pinky says:

    @Stormy Dragon: To be honest, I remember seeing your name, but I don’t remember having a conversation with you before. But whatever your ideology, you seem to be accusing me of some kind of solipsism, and you’re mistaken.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    Will this have any impact on my Disneyland Medal of Honor?

  14. Tillman says:

    Don’t listen to Stormy, he’s actually a bleeding heart concealed inside a free market purist concealed inside an anarcho-syndicalist.

    And look at you two getting offended at each other being offended. It’s so quaint.

    As for my opinion on the article, I’ll just scream “ENCROACHING MILITARIZATION” and leave it at that. Can’t they just give cheap plastic trophies for guiding lost children back to their parents, or honest-to-God ribbons that you’d give participants at a swim meet for this stuff?

  15. @Tillman:

    Don’t listen to Stormy, he’s actually a bleeding heart concealed inside a free market purist concealed inside an anarcho-syndicalist.

    Nuh-uh! I’m just, like all dragons, pro-hoarding. You start “redistributing” you gold to the peasants and the next thing you know they stop sending you virgins. And then it’s all work-work-work to get them back in line.

    And on a serious note, I wasn’t actually offended, I was just using a parallel construction in my writing for comedic effect.

  16. Pinky says:

    @Stormy Dragon: But why did you think I considered myself to be speaking on behalf of every serviceman? I just don’t see it in what I said.

  17. @Pinky:

    I’m offended … for every other member of the military, past and present.

    Well I gues you could have meant defintion 10, but it came across a lot more like 5 to me.

  18. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    I’m going along with the theory that Six Flags was just lazy and used existing designs, and it was an unintended insult. But it was an insult nonetheless.

    Let them come up with their own design — maybe a pink or blue balloon medal for helping lost children, a band-aid for a first aid assist, a boxing glove for breaking up a fight, a floatie for saving someone in the water, two clenched hands for Heimliching a choking person, and so on.

  19. Pinky says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Look at the context: I had just said that I didn’t serve, which implied that I had no standing to make the claim, and I said that I was offended for my father’s sake. Context is everything.

  20. Todd says:

    Too many people get too easily offended about too many things.

  21. C. Clavin says:

    Let them come up with their own design — maybe a pink or blue balloon medal for helping lost children, a band-aid for a first aid assist, a boxing glove for breaking up a fight, a floatie for saving someone in the water, two clenched hands for Heimliching a choking person, and so on.

    I think that Dyson guy is scared for his job.

  22. 11B40 says:

    Greetings, James Joyner:

    Is there a reason why the Purple Heart and Silver Star medals are shown face down ???

  23. James Joyner says:

    @11B40: I have no idea. Probably, the photographer don’t know how medals work.

  24. 11B40 says:

    @James Joyner:

    Greetings, James Joyner:

    Pins either.

  25. William Wilgus says:

    @James Joyner: Lessor ribbons. I suppose what you meant to say was ‘cheap ribbons’. The National Defense Medal would be one of those. It’s cheap that those who are authorized to wear it served in the military? That’s what is was awarded for, serving.

    No medal or ribbon is lessor.

  26. 11B40 says:

    @William Wilgus: @William Wilgus:

    Greetings, William Wilgus:

    I don’t disagree with your point, but, back during my military daze, the National Defense Medal was known colloquially as the “Everybody Ribbon”.