Veterans upset about new medal honoring drone operators

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POTTSBORO, TX-A new medal that will honor drone operators and "cyber-warriors" has been approved by the Department of Defense and veterans nationwide, and right here in Texoma, are upset it will be ranked higher than honors earned on the battlefield.

The Distinguished Warfare Medal was approved last month by the former defense secretary Leon Panetta to recognize high-tech troops, even those who never set foot in the battlefield. That medal would be ranked just below the Distinguished Flying Cross, sitting above the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. That's not sitting well with some veterans, especially those who've been in combat.

Army veteran, Dom Domingos spent eleven months in Vietnam. He's outraged that the new medal approved by the Department of Defense, the Distinguished Warfare Medal honoring drone operators and cyber war experts, could be ranked above combat medals.

"If they want to reward those people and give them a medal or some form of recognition, I'm all for it. But don't give them a medal that supercedes and outranks the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart," he said.

Domingos says both his bronze star and purple heart were hard earned.

"There's my bronze star, with V-device and cluster, I earned that on the ground on the rice paddies of Vietnam. I was getting shot at," he said. "That's my Purple Heart, I earned that Purple Heart by standing on a landmine and blowing my left foot off."

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he approved the high honor because new technology changed how wars are fought and drone and other cyber operators deserve to be recognized because there's no way for them to earn combat medals.

"The medal provides distinct department wide recognition for the extraordinary achievements that directly impact on combat operations, but that doesn't involve acts of valor or physical risk that combat entails," he said.

"Sure, we have more technology to do the things that we need to do to win a war. But you can't win a war without boots on the ground, it cannot happen," said former Air Force nurse, Vikki Johnson.

"I find it inane, demeaning and, frankly, insulting, to me and all my fellow comrades who hold those medals in the past and right now," said Domingos.

Because of complaints from lawmakers and veterans, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel halted the production of this new medal while he reviews how it will be officially ranked.

He will present his findings in the Pentagon in 30 days.

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