Nicknamed the “Nintendo medal,” this decoration would go to troops who fight America’s wars from behind computer consoles. The February debut of the Distinguished Warfare Medal saw former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta praising drone operators for their contributions and noting that “modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems, have changed the way wars are fought. And they’ve given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar.”
But on March 12, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel temporarily halted production of the medal, after public outcry. The new bauble would outrank both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, prompting protests from veterans groups, a petition to the White House, and a bill to lower the medal’s ranking, sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.).
The eagerness to award medals to drone operators and other cyberwarriors—which would also speed their promotions through the ranks—illustrates the direction the U.S. military hopes it is heading: more drones, fewer grunts.