Samarra, Iraq — Josh Gaines, a former Army Reservist from Wisconsin who deployed once to Iraq, decided to “return his military medals” in protest of the war effort there according to an Associated Press report. At an orchestrated event in Madison on Thursday, Gaines was to formally “mail [his] Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and National Defense Service Medal to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld,” whom Gaines said was “the man responsible for my tour.”
A Madison-based “activist” from the group “Students for a Democratic Society” who helped organize Thursday’s protest and medal-mailing melodrama assured the AP that Gaines’s action “will be a very big deal” to “many Americans,” and, according to the report, many more “anti-war groups are calling [this] a rare and powerful protest.”
In reality this is neither “powerful” nor “a very big deal,” for several reasons.
One major reason is that Gaines, who (according to the AP) “served a year-long tour in Iraq between 2004 and 2005” in which he “spent his time guarding two military bases and issuing ammunition to soldiers but never fired a weapon,” didn’t actually return any awards. As mentioned above, the medals he returned were “Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and National Defense Service Medal” of which, the AP writer (betraying his ignorance of military matters) quotes a member of Veterans Against the War as saying, “most veterans of Iraq have earned at least one.”
Had the AP writer been possessed of the savvy — or the reporting instincts to check –people reading the story would then know that both of those medals are automatically given to every single person who goes to Iraq.
In fact, the National Defense Service Medal is given to every single soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine who has served on active duty (including called-up Guard and Reserve), “…from 11 September 2001 to a termination date to be determined in the future.” The NDSM isn’t an Iraq medal: every active serviceman receives it. Strike one for Mr. Gaines and for Students for a Democratic Society, which appears to be desperately trying to regain their Vietnam-era “relevance.”
The Global War on Terror (GWOT) Expeditionary Medal is automatically awarded to any individual who deploys not just to Iraq or Afghanistan, but to any one of thirty-three countries (or eleven different bodies of water), for thirty consecutive or sixty nonconsecutive days, in support of the GWOT. True, this award is related to — and a product of — Mr. Gaines’s Iraq deployment, but again, he would have received it for any of a number of different assignments and deployments throughout the world. It is not an Iraq-specific award.
The reason for delving into the requirements for these awards is to point out the fact that these are automatic medals; every soldier gets them. However, virtually every single serviceman who deploys to Iraq and conducts themselves with a modicum of professionalism while there receives another award for their tour. Depending on their rank, job, and actions, that award could be an Army Commendation Medal, a Bronze Star Medal, or any one of several other awards. Given this fact, it would appear that one of two things is true: either Mr. Gibbons is holding out on his liberal friends or he was such a poor soldier in Iraq that he received no award for his entire tour.
There is, of course, more to the story. According to Mr. Gibbons himself (as recounted by the AP), he “was given an “other than honorable” discharge [from the Army] after failing a drug test.” (As an aside, when the soldiers here at the Patrol Base in Iraq heard that part of the story, the room lit up with derisive laughter, as one of the NCOs sarcastically pointed out that Gaines “sure didn’t have an axe to grind for that!”)
Further, according to the Associated Press article’s quote of a soldier “who served with Gaines in Iraq,” he “was always challenging Army superiors.”
“[T]hat’s the thing that makes him stand out,” said the source.
Given this information, Mr. Gaines appears much more like the Left’s newest Scott Thomas Beauchamp than as a serious objector who is making “a rare and powerful protest.” Once again, in their quest to find soldiers whom they can use both to delegitimize the war and to demonize the American soldier, the anti-war Left has grabbed a what amounts to a total loser, and is flaunting him not only as the rule (rather than the exception) among his peers, but as an example to be followed by other servicemen.
A drug user who was apparently so poor at his job that he received no award for service in Iraq, and who was kicked out of the Army for drugs. (At least John Kerry had awards — Silver Star, Bronze Star — to throw back.)
The anti-war Left really thinks that this is what the US military is made of.
The soldiers here in Samarra — who, in addition to the automatic NDSM and GWOT Expeditionary Medal, will be taking home awards (three Bronze Stars with Valor, one Bronze Star, and one Army Commendation Medal with Valor among the six of them who are in the room with me as I write this) — take strong exception to that.
And so do I.