You’re not your fruit salad

For those not in the military reading from the outside in, a fruit salad is the ribbon rack that goes on the Class A of dress uniform. The fruit salad is a military slang that is sometimes derogatory in nature. Such as look at that guys freaking fruit salad, he needs a stick to hold it up. One of the things that has begun to bug me, is how post military life is dictated by your fruit salad.

Non-military personnel don’t know a while lot about military life but they do seem to know what a purple heart, a bronze star, and a silver star are. Of course everyone knows what the medal of honor is. People that don’t know me but hear about me through a friend, hear about how I got blown up, and I am a little crazy. They hear about the dumb things I did or the couple of buddies I managed to help. They assume that I have purple hearts and bronze stars. Truth be told, don’t have any of that. Been put in for them several times, but for this that and another reason they either fell to the wayside or prey to someone’s ulterior motives.

Its a sore spot with me for sure, but there were guys that did a hell of alot more than me and only got an AAM for their trouble. The thing that bugs me is that when some non-military person hears that I never got those medals, they just assume it was either not that bad or never really happened. Anyone in the military doesn’t bat an eye at the fact I was injured and never got a purple heart. Thats just how it is in the military today, if it doesn’t advance an officer’s career or if you don’t have a squared away leadership team, soldier’s won’t get what they deserve. Sad but true. So why is it that the civi world still judges us upon medals that they have no idea what it takes to recieve.

Another fun thing about medals is, doesn’t it seem the things you did that deserved a citation never got there and the stupid dumb thing that was just part of your job you decorated and given praise for?

The specific event for which I refer, I was standing in a hall talking to this kid. He had been talking to one of my other buddies about joining the service. The kid apparently had gotten an earful about all the junk I went through in the army and figured I had a bunch of medals. We got to talking, turned out his brother was in and he told me that his brother was a personnel officer and that he had gotten a bronze star at the end of his tour. I said thats good for him, he then asked about what I had, and was none to pleased with my reply. He went on to say how weird this war was that a personnel clerk officer saw more combat than the grunts. I lost my patience. I explained that his brother’s medal was due to rank not service or merit. I explained that when the officers get their bronze stars at the end of tours every NCO in the formation grimaces because it is an injustice to what every trooper that falls under their command has fought, bled and died for. I explained that his brother should take that medal off and never ever wear it. The men that received them before our time, died for them. He got it for riding a freaking desk. Then I turned on him, how dare he judge me based upon something that he knows nothing of. The men that died don’t care about the medal they got posthumously but it bugs the living that an LT who did nothing but eat chow hall food and sip coffee got a higher decoration than a kid who laid his life down courageously in combat. So I again turned my attention on the kid, berating him for assuming that the medal his brother wore was something to be proud of, something that would put others in awe. As one of my more squared away officers once said to me, this is a self-licking lollipop.

To sum up why I am pissed, non-military personnel judging me based on 5 cent pieces of ribbon and recycled medal about my time in combat. And then throwing a rank related medal in my face without knowing the bad blood I harbor about losing friends to whose parents only trinkets of decoration were afforded.

Napoleon said he could have conquered the world with enough ribbon, I just wanted enough to stuff down that kids throat.

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2 responses to “You’re not your fruit salad

  • Gene Harper

    I completely agree with the pathetic, ignorance of civilians in terms of how they try to “measure” and “evaluate” combat or even plain old vanilla service experience. I salute you for the self control you exhibited by not choking the feces out this mal-informed person.

    That being said, I sadly and painfully recall writing a long letter to my platoon commander, submitting my pointman, LCpl Greg Howman for not only his purple heart but a bronze star for giving his life in protection of me and my squad. It hadn’t even occurred to my platoon commander that since LCPL Howman could no longer speak for himself, one of us needed to speak up and give him or at least his memory the recognition for his meritorious behavior. His Bronze Star was downgraded to a Navy Achievement Medal with Combat V, and I can hear him laughing from the grave at the futility of trying to explain to someone the relative merit of what something means.

    I distinctly remember fat humiliating tears rolling down my cheeks as I stood at rapt attention in formation, in May of 2002, Parris Island, South Carolina as I received my Eagle, Globe, and Anchor for the first time. I became a man, and took away my father’s shame for not being able to serve in Korea (he had part of his lung removed).
    Unfortunately, the guy you tried to educate in the hallway was not born of fire, did not go through a warrior’s baptism, and cannot understand or even speak our language. But that is his deficit. Not yours. Enough of us know what you did, that i t matters to me.

    Thanks for watching my back, and you are welcome for me watching yours.
    -SGT HARPER

  • Tom Copeland

    I always just wore my top 3. The others were all stuff like “I was alive during the first gulf war”. Bah!

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