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Long Island Press July 13, 2005

American society is in dire need of a wake-up call

Award Would Honor Veterans Who Fought for Freedom against Iron Curtain

By Marina McGowan

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton reintroduced the Cold War Medal Act of 2005 in the Senate on June 30 to establish a Military Service Medal honoring the contribution of Americans who served during the Cold War.

 

“Our victory in the Cold War was made possible by the willingness of millions of Americans in uniform to stand prepared against the threat from behind the Iron Curtain from Berlin to the DMZ,” Clinton said in a statement.

 

The legislation, which was initially introduced to the 108th Congress in November 2003, would authorize the Secretary of Defense to issue a service medal to those who:

 

·        Performed active duty or inactive duty training as an enlisted member or commissioned officer during the Cold War.

·        Completed the person’s initial term of enlistment or, if discharged before completion of such initial term of enlistment, was honorably discharged after completion of not less than 180 days of service on active duty.

·        Completed the person’s initial service obligation as an officer or, if discharged or separated before completion of such initial term of service obligation, was honorably discharged after completion of not less than 180 days of service on active duty.

·        Has not received a discharge less favorable than an honorable discharge or a release from active duty with a characterization of service less favorable than honorable.

·        Has not been released from active duty with a characterization of service less favorable than honorable and has not received a discharge or separation less favorable than an honorable discharge.

 

For the purpose of the act, the Cold War would be determined as the period beginning on September 2, 1945 and ending on December 26, 1991.

 

A spokeswoman for Clinton’s office confirmed that approximately 4.8 million veterans would be eligible for the award.  She also said that if and when the bill is approved, the Department of Defense would fund the medals. The total costs were estimated at $13 million over a five-year period. 

 

“Some have argued that the medal would be costly…[but] when one considers the plethora of medals created by the Pentagon for the most routine service, cost cannot be considered a viable objection,” says Vince Milum, chairman and president of the Cold War Veterans Association (CWVA). “The medals and ribbons awarded today's soldiers during basic training far exceeds the cost of a Cold War medal.”

 

Milum says the three largest veterans organizations – American Veterans (AMVETS), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion – support the Cold War medal.

 

“I think it’s a great idea,” says Richard Rossi of the AMVETS Memorial Post 88. “It actually wasn’t a hand-to-hand combat type of situation. And for that reason people don’t recognize that it is a war. But it is a war that we won.”

 

Milum says recent comments by the VFW's national leadership have termed the Cold War medal "a matter of equity or fairness."  And there has also been a positive response from Congressman Peter King (R-NY).

 

“A lot of people were involved in that 45-year period and I think that it deserves a medal,” he says. “Whether or not these people were actually in combat, they were still engaged in a war. I give Sen. Clinton a lot of credit for introducing this legislation and I will co-sponsor it.”

 

On May 24, 2005, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced companion legislation, the Cold War Victory Medal Act, on the House of Representatives side, which was similar to Clinton’s legislation.

 

The United States government also awards the Cold War Recognition Certificate to military and civilian veterans who served the United States at any time between 1946 and 1991. But according to Milum, who says he speaks for the entire leadership of the CWVA - an organization growing by roughly eighty percent a year, the certificate falls far short of the recognition of such service merits.

 

Milum says that while the Cold War medal is long overdue recognition for the brave men and women who fought and won our nation's longest war, the existing recognition, the so-called Cold War Certificate, is “wholly inadequate.”

 

He says that the certificate is not for military service, as any government service will do. 

 

“It can be awarded to a person who had a part-time job at the Post Office during Christmas Season, yet refused to serve in the military,” he says.  “Simply put, it is not a military award, and does not explicitly recognize military service.”

 

And unlike a victory medal, the certificate cannot be worn on the uniform, he says.

During the Cold War 325 Americans died as a result of hostile action, more than 200 airmen were killed by Communist air defenses, and more than 40 American intelligence aircrafts were shot down, according to Globalsecurity.org. The Cold War began after World War II and ended on Christmas day in 1991 after the Soviet Union collapsed.

 

For more information about the Cold War and the CWVA, log on to http://www.coldwarveterans.com/.

 


Copyright 2005, Long Island Press