The Pentagon's new medal for drone operators has sparked a backlash from veterans whose medals were earned on the battlefield but are ranked lower than the Distinguished Warfare Medal, the Military Times reports. The new medal is higher in the military's "order of precedence" than the Bronze Star, awarded for heroic conduct on the battlefield, and the Purple Heart, for troops injured in battle. "To rank what is basically an award for meritorious service higher than any award for heroism is degrading and insulting to every American combat soldier, airman, sailor, or Marine who risks his or her life and endures the daily rigors of combat in a hostile environment," the Military Order of the Purple Heart said in a statement.
Other veterans' groups have also criticized the new medal's rank and a petition urging the White House to demote it has been signed by nearly 6,000 people. "Under no circumstance should a medal that is designed to honor a pilot, that is controlling a drone via remote control, thousands of miles away from the theater of operation, rank above a medal that involves a soldier being in the line of fire on the ground," the petition states. "This is an injustice to those who have served and risked their lives." Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the medal "recognizes the reality of the kind of technological warfare we are engaged in the 21st century."