MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
Awards and Shakespeare Scars
Many Airmen say, “I don’t care about awards.” Humility is an admirable virtue, much like integrity, selflessness and excellence. However, it is not braggadocio to wear awards; with few exceptions, ribbons are a colorful record of your service. They will one day help you remember your service. In Henry V, William Shakespeare wrote eloquently about humble old men remembering honorable service to their country through the battle scars on their arms.
I am not covetous for gold…such outward things dwell not in my desires…but if it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive…He that shall see this day, and live old age, will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors and say, “Tomorrow is Saint Crispian.” Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars and say, “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.” Old men forget…but he’ll remember with advantages what feats he did that day…we few, we happy few, we band of brothers…
Most of us cannot show actual battle scars from our deployments, but we can show medals and ribbons. Whether you have been deployed a dozen times or served honorably here in the states, your service is valuable and should be reflected in your ribbon rack. Of course there are seemingly automatic awards that feel unearned and insignificant, but when added together with personal awards, they tell a story—one of sacrifice and dedication to a cause higher than your own self-interest.
Personal awards, like the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation and Air Force Achievement Medals are a reflection of how an Airman has gone above and beyond his peers and often involve true dedication and sacrifice. Commanders can use these awards as tools to achieve greater levels of mission accomplishment from the troops. Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have remarked, “I can conquer the whole world if I have enough ribbon.” To be clear, winning an award is not an accomplishment; it is the recognition of accomplishment.
Sadly, too often Airmen’s accomplishments go unnoticed by their supervisors leading to feelings of inadequacy and lack of appreciation and sometimes even causing an early exit from the military. Another issue is when Airmen are not tasked above their normal level of expectation. An under-tasked Airman is never given the opportunity to rise above his peers. Supervisors should always find ways to help their Airmen achieve greater things and then reinforce that good performance with a commensurate award.
In closing, it’s important to keep in mind, you don’t just earn awards for yourself; you earn them for your family too. For generations, your family will take pride in your service to both state and country equally. Stamped metal and colorful cloth are status symbols to those you love the most, so wear them proudly. And when you take the uniform off for the last time, preserve your awards—your symbols of service, because they will outlast you.
In next month’s Shirt Blast, we’ll talk about ways we are making it easier for supervisors and commanders to nominate deserving Airmen for awards.