The Pentagon’s top watchdog has launched an investigation into the case of a Green Beret war hero who was recommended for the nation’s highest valor award — the Medal of Honor — by senior military officers in Afghanistan, but instead received a decoration two levels lower.Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work requested a review of Army Sgt. 1st Class Earl D. Plumlee’s case in a Sept. 2 letter to Defense Department Inspector General Jon T. Rymer. Work asked Rymer to examine the Medal of Honor nomination and the subsequent decision to award the Silver Star instead.“In particular, I request that you examine whether there were any deviations from the standard procedures for processing such valor awards,” Work said in his letter, which was obtained by The Washington Post.
Award recommendations being downgraded or even outright denied is somewhat routine. But a Medal of Honor recommendation being downgraded two steps after the combatant commander has endorsed it is unusual.
And if the narrative of SFC Plumlee’s actions that day are accurate, it certainly seems to me to meet the criteria for at a minimum the Distinguished Service Cross, and likely the Medal of Honor.
The Army apparently still clings to what John Donovan called the Posthumous Medal of Honor, wherein during the early years of the Global War on Terror it was so risk averse about any possible bad publicity, it shied away from awarding the Medal of Honor to any living persons, fearful that their subsequent actions or statements, or any previous behavior, might in some small way show they were human, and imperfect. It appears that aversion still clings to the Army staff.
One would hope that awardees of the Medal of Honor would present pristine service records both before and after the actions that see them decorated. But that is not always the case. And in the past, the service recognized that, and awarded the medal based on the actions at hand. There have been awardees who were screwballs before the award. There has even been an award to a man who later died committing an armed robbery. That those awards went to less than perfect people doesn’t diminish the valor they displayed at the time of their actions.
And if the Army, and the other services, want to see troops act in a valorous manner, they should work to promptly and accurately award the appropriate decorations.