Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The Marine list of medals

Having taken a pop at the magazine yesterday, I want to salute the Marine Corps Gazette for carrying lists of Marines receiving awards for valor. This strikes me as a good counterpart to the roll calls of the dead we see.  It also reminded me of something that happened when I was writing Fiasco. Realizing ...

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Having taken a pop at the magazine yesterday, I want to salute the Marine Corps Gazette for carrying lists of Marines receiving awards for valor. This strikes me as a good counterpart to the roll calls of the dead we see. 

It also reminded me of something that happened when I was writing Fiasco. Realizing that I was going to be critical of certain people in the military, I wanted to balance that by recounting commendable acts, so I asked the Army and Marines for the supporting narratives that are filed in the awarding of more significant medals. The public affairs shops at both services turned me down, saying that they couldn't release those narratives out of privacy concerns. So I contacted Army units directly, and had a hit-or-miss experience, with some helping me out, and others saying that the paperwork wasn't available.

I mentioned these hurdles when I was interviewing a Marine Corps general. He was startled and somewhat flabbergasted that the Corps wouldn't give me the narratives of valorous acts by Marines. He would fix that, he said. Sure enough, the next time I was on his base, the first thing that happened was a lieutenant colonel handed me a bound volume containing all the information I needed.    

Having taken a pop at the magazine yesterday, I want to salute the Marine Corps Gazette for carrying lists of Marines receiving awards for valor. This strikes me as a good counterpart to the roll calls of the dead we see. 

It also reminded me of something that happened when I was writing Fiasco. Realizing that I was going to be critical of certain people in the military, I wanted to balance that by recounting commendable acts, so I asked the Army and Marines for the supporting narratives that are filed in the awarding of more significant medals. The public affairs shops at both services turned me down, saying that they couldn’t release those narratives out of privacy concerns. So I contacted Army units directly, and had a hit-or-miss experience, with some helping me out, and others saying that the paperwork wasn’t available.

I mentioned these hurdles when I was interviewing a Marine Corps general. He was startled and somewhat flabbergasted that the Corps wouldn’t give me the narratives of valorous acts by Marines. He would fix that, he said. Sure enough, the next time I was on his base, the first thing that happened was a lieutenant colonel handed me a bound volume containing all the information I needed.    

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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