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— This Month —
Too Many Heroes
Historical Legacy Goes P.C.
Will We Be Young Again?
It's Still Not Too Late
- - - - -
Our Association is a not-for-profit fraternal
organization. It's purpose is a) to foster camaraderie among the
graduates of Signal Corps Officer Candidate School classes of the
World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War eras, b) to organize and
offer scholarships and other assistance for the families of Officer
and Enlisted OCS cadre who are in need, and c) to archive for
posterity the stories and history of all of the Signal Corps OCS
Officers who served this great country. We are open to ALL
former Army Signal Corps OCS graduates,
their families and
friends, as well as other officers, enlisted men, those interested
in military history, and the general public.
Please, come join us. For more information about our Association, to
see a list of our Officers and Directors, or for contact details,
click on the OCS Association link at left.
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Too Many Heroes
We just heard from our Association's Historian
that one of the men we served with died this
past year (see column at right...). His name was
Donald Pravitz, and he was a member of this
Editor's OCS Class 09-67.
We don't know what awards Don won for his time
in service, but we do know this, whatever awards he
may have won
he both earned and deserved... if for no other
reason than the simple fact that he served.
Like many others, Don served his nation when it
called, even though many of the people of that
nation turned its back on him—and those that
served along side of him—for Don served in the Vietnam
The Vietnam War; one of America's most divisive
wars ever. If the Confederate War turned brother
against brother, so too did the Vietnam war.
Many of those who served saw their time in
service do little more than separate them from
their family... mothers wept and worried, yes; but fathers,
rather than feeling pride that their son was in
Vietnam fighting for a cause America sent him to
fight for kept their head down and their
voice even lower... saying nothing to no one of the
fact that their son was serving in Vietnam.
too were no exception. Many looked incredulously at their sibling,
climbing the steps of the flight that took him
to Vietnam, as a sucker for not
having gone to Canada when he had the chance. And sisters;
in some families they
were the worst of all, for they made no
distinction between the draft dodging Jody's they dated and
those who supported the war. Would that have
happened in WWII? Would a man in WWII, fighting
in Europe or on Guadalcanal, find his sister
dating a guy who ducked the war?
What reward did those like Don receive for
stepping forward and volunteering to stand
behind their country when it called, for not
ducking to Canada, for putting their life on
hold—and risking it—for a war none in their
government could explain the purpose of if their
lives depended on it, and even fewer of the
Generals that ordered them about knew how to
fight? What reward did people like Don receive?
Nothing more than that which they asked for; a chance to serve
That was the only reward people like Don asked for...
and that was all they received.
Interesting then that while America offered little in the way of thanks
to those that served in Vietnam, their fellow soldiers
did. As has been a part of the U.S. military
since General Washington first issued to two
soldiers that served with him a
Badge of Distinction, on August 7, 1782,
American soldiers have recommended
their fellow compatriots for Military Awards.
What Military Awards are we talking of? The
usual ones... like distinguished service medals,
commendation medals and the like; bronze stars,
silver stars and others... and, of course, the
Medal of Honor.
We're talking here of Military Awards, mind
you... not Military Badges. We're talking here
of awards that speak to the merit of a man, not
his accomplishments. We're talking here of
awards that are requested by one's fellow
soldier's and bestowed on him by those same men.
Comes now then what must surely be the military
equivalent of the Politically Correct Police—the
P.C. mind you, now has a military chapter.
What are we talking about, you ask? We're talking
about a new effort by America's
military to scrutinize the military decorations
and awards that those who serve recommend as
marks of merit for those they served with. And
this bothers us.
Last month the Department of Defense
announced the completion of a year-long review
of the military decorations and awards program.
Their effort was to see if it was being abused. Their
point of focus was the hallowed Medal of Honor
and Purple Heart Medals, as well as the
Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air
Force Cross and Silver Star Medal... and all of
the others that trail behind them.
According to a news release issued by the DoD
the review was performed "To ensure continued
appropriate recognition of the service,
sacrifices, and actions of its service members
while maintaining the historical legacy of the
awards program"... or at least that is what they
told us. From our perspective, it is more likely
that their concern was that in the recent
conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan too many
heroes came to the fore.
That, plus the fact that having so many heroes
walking the streets of America is sure to make
the military look like a pretty neat
institution. Or put another way, touting the
heroism, self sacrifice and integrity of those
who serve does little more than glorify the
military... and that's something those leading
our government most definitely do not want to
have happen. After all, a glorified military
leads to wrong headed thinking about wars,
foreign engagements, the value of one's
dedication to their country, and things
like that. If we're going to turn our back on
the world and walk away from our historical
commitment to bring peace to it, help other
countries gain the freedoms we cherish, and set
a global example for being the one country the
downtrodden of the world can turn to for help,
the last thing we need is a glorified military
causing young people to rush to join it. The
last thing we need are more heroes.
At any rate, the DoD's review focused on
combat and valor recognition. In reviewing the
awards relating to these areas they said they utilized lessons learned
from over 14 years
of combat operations to determine if the awards
given represented the standards those awards
"The standards those awards should represent"...
interesting turn of phrase, no?
It's here then where we take exception to
Our beef is this: the kind of awards the DoD is
reviewing is of no concern of theirs. These
types of awards are Military Awards
not Military Badges. Soldiers are
issued Military Awards because they are
recommended for them by their fellow soldiers,
not the DoD.
In the latter case, Military Badges (often
called unit awards), are issued at
the discretion of the Army. Generally they
signify and represent ratings, qualifications or
accomplishments in career fields.
The former case however is different. Military Awards
are earned because of an individual's personal
performance in front of his compatriots...
not because he belonged to a particular unit or
was great at flying a drone. Proof of this
distinction can be seen in other ways too...
like the fact that the Army mandates that all unit awards be
worn separate from individual awards, on the
opposite side of the chest... so that
you can tell the difference between a unit or
skill commendation and a personal commendation.
Yes, we know that Military Awards are
under the authority of the Secretary of the Army...
but understand this, issuing an award under
authority of color is different than either
recommending a person for an award or
determining if they are qualified. When it comes
to determining if a soldier is qualified for a
Military Award—an award representative of an
individual's personal valor in combat,
displaying, as Washington said "the greatest
stimuli to virtuous actions"—that determination
belongs to those he served with.
This page last updated 1 February 2016.
New content is constantly being added. Please check back
1 February 2016
Gerald Katz, OCS Class 44-40, has added significant
content and pictures to his bio page. He's been
sending them along to us for 3 months now, and we
finally got all of them edited and posted. There's
fascinating info in them about Gerry's time in
Germany post-WWII. Take the time to look at them,
they're all in chronological order. Click here,
you're sure to enjoy them.
1 February 2016
(2015) pictures have finally been posted. Click here
to see and enjoy them.
1 January 2016
Start making your plans NOW! In 2016 the Association
will hold its annual reunion in Charleston. Best of
all however, in 2017 the group will make it an
ANNIVERSARY REUNION in Washington, D.C. That year
we'll all be celebrating the approximately 75th
anniversary for our WWII Vets, 65th for our Korean
War Vets, and the 50th for us young Vietnam Vets!
Plan now, and be sure to be there.
Continued from left column...
So we question then the DoD's efforts to see if
too many awards were given in America's most
recent wars. Having some
Pogue in Washington try
to determine if too many Silver Stars were
issued, or if the person receiving a Bronze Star
did or did not earn it, should not be the
prerogative of some rear echelon clerk trying to
balance the recommendations of men fresh from
the battlefield against a set of standards
someone in the DoD came up with and put on a
list. The decision as to whether a man deserves
an award for having the strength of mind and
purpose to carry on in spite of danger should be
left to those who served with him, not the DoD.
Oh sure, we know... of course there will be cases where a valorous award is given to
someone, who, in the grand scheme of things,
displayed less courage and fortitude on
their battlefield than some other soldier
did on his. That is to be expected.
What you do on your battlefield is bound to be
different from what I do on mine, if only
because decisive, determined, valiant, courageous action
is not a quantity that can be measured linearly.
Put another way, only those who are on the ground
in combat and see a fellow soldier tamp down his own fear and act in the
best interest not of himself but of his fellow
soldiers... not to mention the mission... know
whether that man deserves a Military Award or
not. Such an event should not be second guessed by
clerical people in Washington—or any other
person that did not serve beside him.
To try and judge one man's actions in combat by
those of another, in another battle, on another
day, or against some compiled list of "award
criteria", is not only futile, it is
disrespectful to those who serve and, while
trying to accomplish their mission, not only
watch each other's back but also watch and
judge each other's actions.
The fact of the matter is, if men of a unit
recommend one of their own for an award in
recognition of what they perceive as virtuous,
undaunted action on the part of their fellow
soldier, that's good enough. The DoD should not
be counter-judging them.
So what has the DoD's review of the awards of
the wars of the past 14 years brought?
Among the key changes they are recommending are these:
Implementation of new
goals and processes to improve timeliness of the
Medal of Honor and other valor awards;
Standardization of the meaning and use of the
“V” device as a valor-only device to ensure
unambiguous and distinctive recognition for
preeminent acts of combat valor;
Creation of a
new combat device (e.g., “C” device) to
distinctly recognize those service members
performing meritoriously under the most arduous
Adoption of a common
definition of Meritorious Service Under Combat
Conditions, to determine eligibility for personal
Introduction of an “R” remote
impacts device to recognize service members who
use remote technology to directly impact combat
Admittedly, on the surface this all
seems fair and normal. After all, if you believe the DoD
they are only trying to set "standards" by which intrepid
action can be measured. But still, we recommend caution. In
fact, we recommend grave caution, for what George Washington
started was never intended to create a situation by which
one's valor was judged by the country he fought for. The
facts say otherwise. The facts say that a person's valor was intended to
be judged by those he fought with.
Washington made this point when he
set up the system we have today. His Badge of Distinction,
which consisted of a strip of white cloth sewn above the
left cuff of the soldier's regimental coat, was the
precursor of today's Medal of Honor. What Washington
mandated was that unlike in Europe, where awards of valor
were given by governments to high-ranking officers only, he
intended that in America they also be given to the common
soldier, upon recommendation of his fellow soldiers.
To make his point that a common
soldier could recommend a fellow soldier for an award
he—acting as just another soldier on the
battlefield—recommended two enlisted soldiers of the
Connecticut Continental Line to be the first recipients.
The DoD should tread carefully then
as it sets about reviewing awards of heroism "To
ensure service members awarded these medals were
appropriately recognized for their valorous
action in recent military conflicts." To
us, that sounds like code for "too many heroes came out of
Doubt us? Then consider this
prescient quotation from the DoD: “Although there is no indication that members
were inappropriately recognized, the secretary
determined that unusual Medal of Honor awards
trends reported by the recent Military
Decorations and Awards Review justified a
seven Medal of Honor awards for actions in Iraq
and Afghanistan were posthumous; however, after
the department clarified the ‘risk of life’
portion of the Medal of Honor award criteria in
2010 all ten recipients have been living.
Additionally, trends showed an increased
willingness of commanders to upgrade
recommendations submitted from subordinate
commands as the wars progressed. Accordingly,
the secretary directed the review as a
cautionary measure on behalf of the service
members who have performed heroically in
Yeah, sure... on behalf of the
service members who performed heroically. That and your
mother's uncle too.
The reviews are ongoing. One can only
wonder what will happen now that it is our country that
judges our valor, not those we fight along side of.
results of the reviews are due to the Secretary
of Defense on Sept. 30, 2017.
Will We Be Young Again?
Don Pravitz's death reminds us that time is creeping up on
us. Or is this feeling that time is passing much too quickly
just a dream?
Will we wake from this dream to find ourselves alive, on a
flight home from a far off land, waiting to meet a loved
one, waiting for us at an airport? Will it ever be 1967
again? Will we ever know youth again?
The enemy creeps through the wire at night, but these days
the enemy is time. He is as stealthy as the enemy of old,
but you can’t kill this one.
He comes each night, taking
away a piece of our memory. A piece of our past. A piece
of today. A piece of tomorrow. And with each visit our
world gets smaller… by a bit… not much mind you… just a bit… but
a bit nevertheless.
As you lay awake tonight watching for
the enemy be aware that just as time has changed so many
things in your life, the enemy you seek has changed too. Do
not let the enemy defeat you. Beat him. He can be beaten.
We know not what took our friend Don Pravitz, but take him
it did. Major Green, our Association's Historian, let us
know a few weeks back that although it took a while to find
its way online the obituary for Don Pravitz, our Classmate
from Army Signal OCS Class 09-67, told the world that he
died this past year.
don't like to post obituaries on this website, for
if we did it would take up far more space and time than we
have available. Too many of us are too old. Too many of us
are passing too quickly.
With Don's passing something came to our mind, and that
the question of what exactly life is? What, pray tell, is
Waiting for 71 to arrive this year, this thought is
omnipresent in this Editor's head; and having known Don Pravitz
it was likely present in his as he approached the
end of his life too. For him though, he must have known with
certainty what life was all about, for Don sang in his local
choir for over 30 years.
Which brings us to our point of defeating the enemy of life:
those ideas that rattle around inside our head. If you're sitting around
these days missing your glory days, the days when you lived
large, and lamenting the frailties of aged health you are a)
just like the rest of humanity and b) wasting your time.
Most human beings miss the essence of life and if you are
spending your days thinking of your youth you are missing it
too. You are missing it by focusing on the preservation
of your self, or ego, rather than the fullness of the human
life that you can reach within your mind and soul.
Not to wax religious here, but In the Christian tradition,
as expressed by Saint Thomas Aquinas, the notion of eternal
life does not refer primarily to the prolongation of an
earthly, physical life based on the concept of
immortality, but on the fullness a human life can
achieve if one's goal in life is not the preservation of
self and body, but communion with and service to God and
Taking God out of the equation and focusing on service to
one's neighbors (read: family and friends) one can find the same idea
in other monotheistic religions. Judaism and even
our sometimes evil friend Islam believe in this tenet too. In the Eastern world
Hinduism and Buddhism—which are not religions but
philosophical practices—both point to the importance of
letting go of the ego and id and focusing on the good one
can do by communing with society (read again: family and
friends) in a
way that helps society.
Traditions such as these converge in the observation that
the more one "de-centers" oneself the more one loses
interest in self-preservation or the extension of one's
biological lifespan; and when that happens one finds oneself
practicing a form of modesty that leans toward a person
seeking the flourishing of other people rather than
So if you're feeling old these days and
worrying about how long you have to live, so that you can live again in the
mind of that young man that returned from Vietnam prepared
to conquer the full life ahead of him, turn your thoughts
from preserving your aged body towards
attaining a much higher plain of happiness... one achieved
by living a more meaningful life. You see, there is an
important paradox to life: the more life is experienced
as meaningful the less we are aware of time. The less we
are aware of time, the longer we perceive we live.
Life is an intrinsic good only if you make it good...
and that comes from within your mind, not your ego or the
health of your body. As you pass each day, for the sake of
those good Officers like Don Pravitz that preceded us, make your life
meaningful and you will live forever.
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