No Combat Action Ribbon, No Respect

No CAR, no respect: The push to end the ribbon rack divide

Master Sgt. Orlando Reyes was taken aback when he was ridiculed on social media for not having a Combat Action Ribbon after being named the 2014 Military Times' Marine of the Year.

While Reyes, a logistician, had three deployments to Iraq under his belt, his duties had never put him in a position to participate in a combat engagement.

"I didn't expect it to go so far," Reyes said of the criticism he experienced. "In today's era of social media and anonymity of computer posts, people are going to say what they want and there's no repercussions. They think, because of the rack of someone's chest, they have insight into that individual."

The growing discord surrounding Combat Action Ribbons — the award issued by the sea services for active participation in ground or surface combat — is troubling some leaders.

The online criticism illustrates an increasingly vocal perspective among Marines, especially those in the ground combat community. This perspective holds that a Marines' worth and authenticity is closely connected to combat experience, and that those who lack this experience are less deserving of respect.

In some ways, this viewpoint is a natural outgrowth of 14 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford is making it clear that he has no patience for it.

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Of Course a CAR Matters

Look, every Marine wants a CAR. Love it or hate it, it’s true. You don’t join the Marines in any capacity if at some level you don’t really want to experience combat. Yes, even the POG admin boot has dreams of somehow delivering a government issued black pen under heavy artillery bombardment. The Marine Corps makes no qualms about who they are and always have been. Namely, a life taking organization and you join it for that reason alone.

Consequently, it is congruent that the service should have an award such as the CAR to recognize those whom have actually done so. Now, I don’t want you take this statement as some intentional slight against Persons Other than Grunts, aka, POGs. I made in clear in my article, A POG by Any Other Name, that all jobs in the Marines play their role in war.


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