A Cold War Victory Medal.
The idea is not a new one, in fact, and has been debated often in both the House and the Senate. There are pros and cons to the issue. Some, myself included, think we have too many ribbons and medals. Such items as the GWOTSM and various specific duty ribbons don’t seem quite right to me, especially on a Marine uniform. Other awards have far more meaning. Gravitas, if you will. So my natural tendency would lean away from yet another medal/ribbon/award. (Lord knows the teasing that National Guard folks get about the “Good Posture Medal” and “Perfect Attendance Ribbon”.)
Yet, as the end of the Cold War nears two decades distant, like a person stepping away from a massive structure whose grandeur is lost in the visible details, the immense and dangerous efforts and exertions of our service men and women during the Cold War comes more clearly into proper perspective. Those efforts, nearly incomprehensible today, seem appropriate for some form of special recognition. The Cold War involved all of the aspects of a hot one, with the overarching understanding that failure of the efforts of both deterrence and readiness would lead to annihilation on a scale unknown in man’s history.
Beginning in the Summer of 1945, and lasting until the fall of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the Cold War was a constant and exhaustive effort, requiring large amounts of forces, materiel, and deployments, even during times of open war in other places. USAF F-86 Sabre jets were not initially deployed to the Korean peninsula as it was feared that a weakening of US continental air defenses would provide the Soviets with opportunities for a nuclear strike. Despite the demands for US Navy presence off the coast of Vietnam, the US 6th Fleet maintained an extremely powerful presence in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
The crews of strategic bombers, missile silos, Navy ships and at sea, Marine Corps and Army forces forward deployed or rapid deployment echelons, lived lives of constant vigilance, uncertainty, and seemingly endless drills and preparations to maintain razor-sharp skills.
Those whose jobs were active surveillance of Soviet and Soviet Bloc hostile nations played a very dangerous game with an unremitting enemy. The shooting down of Deep Sea 129 (highlighted by SteelJaw’s excellent post), loss of USS Scorpion (SSN-589), capture of USS Pueblo (AGER-2), and many other hostile incidents, resulted in 382 US casualties formally recognized (according to the VFW). When one counts lives lost during the Berlin Airlift and many other occurrences that remain behind a shroud of secrecy, the number is far higher.
As I said in the opening paragraph, my instinct is almost always to shy away from yet another award for the slightly-better-than-ordinary. We have far too many already.
But for those who served this nation during the prolonged era of tension, readiness, deterrence, loss, sacrifice, courage, and ultimately, victory that encompassed the 46 years of the Cold War, it may be time that recognition is due. Their efforts, whether they fired in anger or not, that secured our freedom during those years, was truly extraordinary. What does the MILBLOG crowd have to say?