USA TODAY US Edition
20% OF TOP MEDALS FOR COVERT ACTIONS
Warriors engage in heroism that can’t be discussed
Nearly 20% of the military’s most-treasured medals have been awarded for classified missions since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, according to data obtained by USA TODAY.
The secrecy surrounding more than 200 Service Cross and Silver Star awards reflects the reliance on special operations forces involved in classified missions to capture or kill terrorists and free hostages, according to a senior Defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to characterize the commendations.
Last month, the Pentagon announced that officials are reviewing 1,090 awards of Service Crosses and Silver Stars awarded since Sept. 11, 2001, to determine whether any should be upgraded to the nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, 216 medals were awarded in secret for missions that cannot be publicly discussed, according to the records. One Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest medal awarded to soldiers, and three Navy Crosses, the equivalent medal for sailors and Marines, have been issued for courageous acts during classified operations. The Navy awarded 112 Silver Stars and the Army 100 for undisclosed actions. The Air Force has not issued a Service Cross or Silver Star in secret since 9/11.
The data, current as of last week, could change slightly as medals are reviewed.
That one in five of the highest medals have been issued in secret is probably because of the reliance on special operations forces undertaking stealthy missions, the Defense official said. Along with drone strikes, socalled direct-action raids con- ducted by commandos in secret have become a hallmark of the war on terror, the official said.
Monday, President Obama talked about one of those secret missions when he awarded a Navy SEAL the Medal of Honor. Senior Chief Petty Officer Edward Byers earned the medal for his role in springing an American doctor held hostage by the Taliban in 2012. Byers’ surpassing heroism is the reason details of the mission were made public. Medals of Honor are not awarded in secret.
Obama underlined the reason for secrecy in his remarks at the ceremony.
“Given the nature of Ed’s service, there is a lot that we cannot say today,” Obama said. “Many of the operational details of his mission remain classified. Many of his teammates cannot be mentioned. And this is as it should be. Their success demands secrecy, and that secrecy saves lives.”
“Given the nature of Ed’s service, there is a lot that we cannot say today. Many of the operational details of his mission remain classified.” President Obama