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Lawmakers push for a WWI medal review to ensure minorities get the recognition they deserve
House lawmakers are pushing for a Pentagon review of valor awards given out for service in World War I to ensure that minorities are getting the recognition they deserve.
Draft language of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act from the House Armed Services Committee, unveiled on Monday, pushes for the Defense Department to "review the service records of certain African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, Jewish American, and Native American war veterans to ensure that minority service members are appropriately recognized for their valorous service."
In the Senate, a standalone bill was introduced in April by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), which calls for service secretaries to conduct a similar review of veterans of their branch. It has received bipartisan support, though a spokesperson for Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who is a cosponsor, told Task & Purpose that the language is not yet in the Senate's version of the NDAA, but could be added later.
Communications director for Van Hollen, Bridgett Frey, told Task & Purpose that the senator "continues to work with Senate leadership to push for passage of this important bipartisan legislation."
To be eligible for the review, according to the Senate's legislation, the veteran must have been awarded either the Distinguished Service Cross or the Navy Cross for action; the Croix de Guerre with Palm by the French government; or been recommended for a Medal of Honor for action taken between April 6, 1917 and November 11, 1918.
The House Armed Services Committee's draft language lays out the same eligibility requirements, and says the service secretaries should consult with the Valor Medals Review Task Force, and other veteran organizations that the Secretary deems appropriate.
This falls in line with other efforts to recognize contributions from minorities to the defense of the U.S. In 2018, a group of historians and WWI experts began reviewing the issue to determine if systemic racism kept combat heroes from receiving the awards they reserved. And recently, California has taken steps to establish more memorials for minorities who served — recently designating an official memorial for LGBTQ veterans, and an American Indian & Alaska Native Veterans Memorial.
According to Politico, all Medals of Honor "went to white soldiers" after WWI, despite heroic actions from soldiers like those found in the famed 369th Infantry Regiment — which was made up almost entirely of African American soldiers — also known as the "Harlem Hellfighters."
Former President Barack Obama made awarding minority veterans a "priority" while in office, the New York Times reported in 2014, at one point awarding 24 Medals of Honor to Army veterans who had previously been denied. Obama also awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to Sgt. Henry Johnson, a WWI hero who fought with the 369th. Despite Johnson's bravery in combat, he wasn't awarded the medal until almost 100 years after his service, in 2015.
"We are a nation — a people — who remember our heroes," Obama said at the time, according to the Washington Post. "We never forget their sacrifice. And we believe that it's never too late to say thank you."
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A memo circulating over the weekend warning of a "possible imminent attack" against U.S. soldiers in Germany was investigated by Army officials, who found there to not be a serious threat after all.
The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.
Comedian Jon Stewart has joined forces with veterans groups to make sure service members who have been sickened by toxins from burn pits get the medical care they need, according to the Military Officers Association of America.
"Quite frankly, this is not just about burn pits — it's about the way we go to war as a country," Stewart said during his Jan. 17 visit to Washington, D.C. "We always have money to make war. We need to always have money to take care of what happens to people who are selfless enough, patriotic enough, to wage those wars on our behalf."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Editor's Note: A version of this article originally appeared on the blog of Angry Staff Officer
This morning, the Virginia state capitol in Richmond saw dozens of armed men gathering to demonstrate their support for the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution – the right to bear arms. These men were not merely bearing arms, however; they were fully accoutered in the trappings of what one would call a paramilitary group: helmets, vests, ammunition pouches, camouflage clothing, and other "tactical" necessities, the majority of which are neither tactical nor necessary. Their weapons, too, are bedecked with all sorts of accessories, and are also in the paramilitary lane. Rather than carry rifles or shotguns that one would use for hunting, they instead carry semi-automatic "military grade" weapons, to merely prove that they can.
This is not an uncommon sight in America. Nor has it ever been. Armed groups of angry men have a long and uncomfortable history in the United States. On very rare occasions, these irregulars have done some good against corrupt, power-hungry, and abusive county governments. For the most part, however, they bode no good.
How We Found Out explores recent reporting from Task & Purpose, answering questions about how we sourced our stories, what challenges we faced, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at how we cover issues impacting the military and veterans community.
Following a string of news reports on private Facebook group called Marines United, where current and former Marines shared nude photos of their fellow service members, the Corps launched an internal investigation to determine if the incident was indicative of a larger problem facing the military's smallest branch.
In December 2019, Task & Purpose published a feature story written by our editor in chief, Paul Szoldra, which drew from the internal review. In the article, Szoldra detailed the findings of that investigation, which included first-hand accounts from male and female Marines.
Task & Purpose spoke with Szoldra to discuss how he got his hands on the investigation, how he made sense of the more than 100 pages of anecdotes and personal testimony, and asked what, if anything, the Marine Corps may do to correct the problem.
This is the fourth installment in the recurring column How We Found Out.