Entries in Awards (2)


New Military Award for Drone Pilots Draws Hill Protest

JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon’s newest military honor, symbolized by a two-inch bronze medallion, has sparked fierce debate over the nation’s growing corps of drone pilots and cyberwarriors and how to commend their service, which happens far from an actual battlefield.

The Distinguished Warfare Medal, approved by then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month, is the military’s first new combat-related medal in nearly 70 years.  It is intended to recognize extraordinary contributions to combat operations by a service member from afar and will rank as the eighth highest individual award behind the Medal of Honor.

But placement of the new medal ahead of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, which are given for valor in the line of fire, has created significant stir.

Critics have panned it as the “Chair-borne Medal,” “the Nintendo Medal,” “Distant Warfare Medal” and “the Purple Buttocks,” alluding to fact that computer-based warriors do their work from a chair, among other names.

Top veterans groups and a rare bipartisan alliance on Capitol Hill are intensely lobbying the Pentagon and President Obama to downgrade the award.

“We are supportive of recognizing and rewarding such extraordinary service, but in the absence of the service member exposing him or herself to imminent mortal danger, we cannot support the DWM taking precedence above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart,” a bipartisan group of 48 lawmakers wrote new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday.

“Possibility of death or grievous bodily harm” are key factors that should elevate recipients of those awards above others who didn’t face those risks, the group wrote.

The letter was penned by 34 Republicans and 14 Democrats, including Republican Reps. Joe Wilson of South Carolina and Darrell Issa of California, and Democratic Reps. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Susan Davis of California.

Officials with the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars said they have already been pressing the administration to downgrade the award, saying that bestowing a higher-ranked medal to service members who fought from “behind a desk” is disrespectful to those serving in harm’s way.

So far, the administration has shown no sign of backing down.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


First Lady Honors Top After-School Arts Programs

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- The nation's top extracurricular programs for the arts and humanities were honored Monday in an awards ceremony at the White House. First lady Michelle Obama presided over the event, as the honorary chair of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

Twelve programs from around the country were recognized for what Mrs. Obama called "those pushing and inspiring" children, "revealing their boundless promise, and teaching them to believe in themselves."

The committee's National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards are the country's highest honor for organizations that cater to education in the arts. Many of the awards recipients focused on serving low-income communities.

"You make all this happen on shoestring budgets; you do it in unbelievable ways, in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable," the first lady said. "And I know that you put a lot of late nights and long hours into giving these kids opportunities worthy of their promise."

Obama told the room of program organizers and their star pupils that in addition to building a child's self-esteem, the team work and problem-solving skills offered by the programs had real-world applications students would use in college and the workplace.

"That’s why it is so critical that we preserve arts education in our schools," she said. "It is absolutely critical because we know how important it is for our children’s development.  We all know."

Several programs stood out for originality. One program out of San Fernando, Calif., paired Grammy award-winning band Mariachi Los Camperos with students of primarily Mexican descent in instructional experience to preserve the genre.

Dressed in bright blue mariachi attire, the youths performed in the East Room with a backdrop painting of George Washington.

It's been "an amazing experience," the group's violinist later told ABC News. Sixteen-year-old Cesar Zuniga has dreams of Stanford University but wants to bring the genre with him.

"At first I wasn't sure if this was what I wanted to do," he said. "But after I started going to these lessons and all the performances I actually started liking it a lot."

Another program out of Oakland, Youth Radio, provided media arts and journalism training to underserved youths, including internship opportunities. The New York City Urban Debate League was also present for the ceremony. Since 1997 the organization has taught civics and public policy to under-served regional schools.

A Chinese delegation was also recognized. The "100 Dong Songs Program" is dedicated to preserving the culture of the Dong people of western China, whose oral traditions have struggled under globalization.

Monday was the first lady's first public speaking engagement since President Obama won reelection. In her parting remarks she urged the youths to keep the programs alive for the next generation.

"It’s not enough just to receive these gifts and blessings, but to understand that you are blessed and your job now is to pass it on, to find someone in your life that you are going to mentor, that you are going to pull up," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio