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February 2016

— This Month —

Too Many Heroes

Historical Legacy Goes P.C.

And...

Will We Be Young Again?

It's Still Not Too Late

- - - - -

MISSION STATEMENT

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.

Please note: The views and opinions expressed on this website are offered in order to stimulate interest in those who visit it. They are solely the views and expressions of the authors and/or contributors to this website and do not necessarily represent the views of the Army Signal Corps Officer Candidate School Association, its Officers, Directors, members, volunteers, staff, or any other party associated with the Association. If you have any suggestions for improvements to this site, please send them to WebMaster@ArmySignalOCS.com. We are here to serve you. 


 

Too Many Heroes

From the editor's desk

Historical legacy goes P.C.

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 war.

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.

Brothers 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?

Hardly.

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 their country.

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.

Medal of HonorWhat 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 should represent.

"The standards those awards should represent"... interesting turn of phrase, no?

It's here then where we take exception to the DoD's actions. 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.

Bronze StarYes, we know that Military Awards are issued 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.

Continued at top of page, COLUMN AT RIGHT

 


 

The DoD on ISIL


 

Vietnam Campaign Ribbons

This page last updated 1 February 2016. New content is constantly being added. Please check back frequently.

Update 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. October 2015 reunion pictures

Update 1 February 2016 October's reunion (2015) pictures have finally been posted. Click here to see and enjoy them. October 2015 reunion pictures

Update 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.

 

 All Gave Some, Some Gave All

 

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 combat conditions;

  • Adoption of a common definition of Meritorious Service Under Combat Conditions, to determine eligibility for personal combat awards;

  • Introduction of an “R” remote impacts device to recognize service members who use remote technology to directly impact combat operations. 

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 those wars."

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 review.

“The first 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 combat."

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.

The results of the reviews are due to the Secretary of Defense on Sept. 30, 2017.

Stay tuned.   



 

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.

Lieutenant Donald Pravitz, Army Signal OCS Class 09-67We 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 is the question of what exactly life is? What, pray tell, is living?

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 one's neighbor.

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 themselves.

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. 


U.S. Army Signal Corps
 
   

 


 

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