Did Army award Silver Stars without telling recipients?
October 5th, 2012
08:16 PM ET

Did Army award Silver Stars without telling recipients?

By Mike Mount

The accidental posting of personal information online about top Army combat award recipients has created confusion over whether some soldiers were ever told that they had earned Silver Stars for heroism.

At issue is the discovery last week of a document inadvertently published on the Web by a contractor that listed hundreds of valor award recipients beginning in 2001.

The list includes the names and Social Security numbers of Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross recipients from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The list also includes the names of hundreds of Silver Star recipients from the same conflicts, but does not note their Social Security information.

Never intended for public view, the database contained nine names of Silver Star recipients not included on the Department of Defense's official list of soldiers who received that award - the third highest for valor, according to a combat award historian who discovered the apparent error.

Historian Doug Sterner, who has been researching U.S. military valor awards for almost 15 years, was doing online research last week when he stumbled upon the database and noticed discrepancies when comparing lists.

One of the men on the list Sterner found was retired Army Special Forces Master Sgt. Ronnie Raikes.

In the early days of the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, Raikes and his team were tasked with bringing Hamid Karzai into Afghanistan from Pakistan. The mission was to build a fighting force of Afghan rebels, led by Karzai, who would help the United States fight the Taliban.

Karzai is now president of Afghanistan.

Raikes and his team fought the Taliban on a march toward Kandahar but were caught in a friendly fire bomb strike, that killed one. Raikes and several other members of his team were wounded, he told Security Clearance.

Raikes said he received the Bronze Star for actions against the Taliban in 2001. He said he and eight other members of his unit, Operational Detachment – Alpha 574, were recommended for the Silver Star. But they were later told by superiors the award was downgraded to a Bronze Star.

When asked by Security Clearance how he felt that he may have been awarded the Silver Star but never told, Raikes said, "It hurt a little bit."

"I gave 25 years to the Army ... and for the actions we did in a short time and to be a contributing factor in Kandahar falling but just falling short of getting there is pretty significant," Raikes said.

"People now get them (Silver Stars) for sitting behind a desk in an office in Afghanistan," he said.

The Army Times, which initially reported the story, informed Raikes that he was on a list of Silver Star recipients.

When Security Clearance asked him how he felt about that news, Raikes seemed not to flinch, "This means the military stepped up and took care of its people and it is well deserved," he said.

Raikes seemed a bit unsure of how the Army could possibly mix things up.

"I met President (George W.) Bush, I was invited to sit and watch him at his first State of the Union address and sat next to Mr. Karzai," he said.

Raikes has heard nothing from the Army on the status of his award and said he will ask contacts for information.

Raikes said two other members of his team who were killed in fighting prior to the friendly fire incident did receive the Silver Star.

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel H. Petithory and Master Sgt. Jefferson D. Davis are on the website recently created by the Pentagon to allow the public to search award records.

Sterner said he tracked down two others on the list of nine and discovered they had received their medals, but were still not officially recognized on the Defense Department website.

He said he cannot find enough information to find answers about the other six names on his list.

Sterner is critical of the Army's lack of accountability in properly recording the names of major valor awards.

"Why give an award if the person does not know it and the Army does not keep track of it," Sterner said.

The Army Times initially reported on the posting of the list. Its parent company employs Sterner.

In a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh on Wednesday, Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-California) – a veteran of both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a member of the House Armed Services Committee – voiced his concern and demanded a review.

"It is the obligation of the Army to maintain an awards process that is devoid of lapses in communication, transparency and most importantly, ensuring America's military heroes are honored with the combat decorations they deserve," Hunter said.

"I'm also concerned that this issue could be representative of a larger problem and I would encourage the Army to undertake a review of its awards process," Hunter said.

Army officials said an investigation of how the publication of the Social Security numbers online occurred has begun.

"We take this matter very seriously," according to Army spokesman Col. Jonathan Withington, who said the service took "immediate corrective action" once the soldiers' information was discovered on the Web. "The contractor was notified immediately and removed the unofficial file."

Withington said the Army was notifying "affected persons to make them aware of the circumstances" in accordance with military policy.

It is unclear how long the database was online.

The Army contractor at the center of the controversy, Brightline Interactive of Alexandria, Virginia, did not respond to questions from CNN.

soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. acrscout

    The military awards system is a joke.

    During my career, I personally observed issuance of Army Achievement Medals to soldiers for simply doing their day to day jobs, while others who performed above and beyond the norm, got nothing.

    During my career, it was pretty standard that soldiers got awards of varying levels at the end of their tours, unless they screwed up somewhere. But, I had at least two tours of duty where units under my direction achieved results far above the rest of the unit in training and testing performance, yet at the end of my tour I received no award whatsoever. In one case I lead a scout squad during a three month training deployment, took part in a R&D project as a major planner and data collector, served in a duty position that called for it to be filled by someone two pay grades above what I was wearing on my collar, and did so with performance good enough to get maximum ratings on my annual evaluation reports in that job, yet at the end of three years, I got no award and no explanation as to why none was awarded. As a retiree, I don't put much stock in my military career, it was just a 22 year blank spot in my life that means very little.

    October 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Reply
  2. petekutheis

    All I know is I was DENIED a bronze medal upon 20 year retirement in 2006. Reason: I ONLY did 20 years and I was MERELY a CW3.

    25th ID had a structure based on rank and time in service and whether you were popular with the field grade chain. I can't help but to still feel CHEATED. Another ho hum MSM while watching CW4, E8 and E9 and CPT, MAJ etc get bronze stars.

    October 9, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Reply

    Hell I will give you a story. Bronze or Silver star .What is up with that. Given to someone who set behind a desk.My brother was KIA in Vietnan 1/2/1966.They would not give him a CIB because his MOA was a cook.But he faced the enemy and died for his country. He was with the 1 503 Infantry 173rd Airborne. So what the hell is wrong with this picture!!!

    October 7, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Reply
  4. bnthrduntht

    i was in oif/oef in country for 7 mths in 03. at the end of the rotation 2 different chains asked me for 'write ups' for the medals they wanted to give me. i told them if they thought i earned them then they should write them. i wrote up all my troops who i thought earned medals. neither one bothered to give me the medals. i must be old school. i just think that it should be given for RECOGNIZED service above and beyond, not write up skills.

    October 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Reply
  5. Keith

    Valor is a personal journey, sometimes it is for your friends, sometimes it was the only option. It never needs to be reconized by others to qualify it as such.

    October 7, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  6. Daniel fox

    This is nothing new. I've got orders downstairs for several medals i earned that, for whatever reason, failed to be annotated on my official service record (I blame lazy soldiers and civilians collecting a paycechk and not doing their job).

    October 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Reply
  7. Vumba4


    October 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Reply
  8. Al

    Yup, I've seen a silver star and plenty of bronze stars awarded for desk jockeys...

    October 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Reply
    • Al

      Well, just Bronze Stars, without the V. The Silver Star was legit V.

      October 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Reply
  9. Pete/Ark

    Happens frequently , in all branches ,and with many decorations...the acronym was coined in WWII...SNAFU...wonder how many VietNam combat marines have received the decorations outlined in SECNAVINST 1650.1H ?? Not high level heroism, just a nice "thanks for serving".

    October 7, 2012 at 11:32 am | Reply
  10. Cam

    No one gets a Silver Star by sitting behind a desk in Afghanistan. Bull. Now a Bronze Star without the V device, is a common award for Staff Officers and NCOs that never leave the wire. Every Soldier, Sailor and Marine that was awarded a Silver Star during OIF/OEF EARNED IT. Likely if these same Silver Star Recipients had done what they did during a previous war, Vietnam, they would have been awarded a Service Cross or even a MOH. Just one Soldier's opinion or the current award system, which is broke. I will say that none of these service members did anything in combat because of the award they would receive. Awards are not in our minds when we are being engaged. Now afterwards when some Staff Rat or Commander with no combat time asks you "Do you really think you deserve an award?", the most common response is "No". Modest Soldiers should still be recognized, even if they don't care about the award. Leaders should recognize loyalty regardless of rank, branch or mission.

    October 7, 2012 at 11:10 am | Reply
    • Oh boy

      I was off shore and in the navy in 72, I agree with you 100%!

      October 7, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Reply
    • dean

      Never had a commander come and ASK me if I thought I deserved an award. During operations and combat engagement with enemy forces a commander may choose to write an individual or individuals up for medals they see as deserving.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:32 am | Reply
  11. jorge washinsen

    Problem is going to be when there is no volunteer military and it will take 5 years to get draftees in shape to fight. It will come again.Look at old photographs of young boys lining up for training in 1941.They were well on the way to being in shape,most of them at least, when they arrived for just short weeks of training,especially the Army.

    October 7, 2012 at 11:01 am | Reply
  12. Hide Behind

    It may come as a surprise to many but the main reason we have an all voluntary military is because they want unquestioning minds whose only concern is to do the job they are told and shut up.
    All the fluff and ceremonys are mainly built upon lies and are but mere enhancements to recruit more juvenile minds into grunts and those of a warrior spirit to be our Praetorian Guards of State Departmrnts corporate/ politicaly inspired
    An oath to Creed not.
    national ideals.
    No greater bunch of whiners in US than retired and ex service members.
    The future cost to nation for just those ex military just since iraq and afghan corporate invasions will be over $150 Billion/per year and the cost keeps growing.
    It works, as over 70% of US GDP now comes from overseas sources.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:53 am | Reply
    • Keith

      It isn't so much about the soldiers; I served in a drafted military. It is about the voters,

      Young people have no stake in America any more; they don't care since there is no chance of them having to serve unless they join. If the draft was still in effect the streets of Charlotte and Tampa would have been on fire during the conventions.

      The way the media is cooperating with the powers that be we might not have heard about it anyway.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  13. jorge washinsen

    Too many offering opinions who have never picked up anything heavier than the pill they seem to be on.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:48 am | Reply
    • Sodomite

      Yeah, because not being willing to kill and die for absolutely nothing means that most of us are supposed to stay quiet and obey the all-knowing, almighty state without question. Far too many f*****g clovers in this country.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
  14. jorge washinsen

    Respect our military, but do not put 100 percent trust in the ones who deploy them to every stupid argument in the world.We are in more danger in our own country from terrorism than any where else on earth.We coddle the enemy, who while wearing our uniform, kill our soldiers.When, and if we can ever get off a wartime economy, things might change.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:46 am | Reply
  15. Wow..

    While in the Marine Corps, I served with a lot of guys worthy of Silver Stars. Did any of them complain? No.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:28 am | Reply
    • Matt

      I was a Marine as well, we have higher standards for our awards. Marines don't fight for medals, we fight for Corps and Country.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:43 am | Reply
      • Pete/Ark

        Semper Fi...but if you served in VietNam , odds say your record is missing two , not "biggies" ,but you earned 'em...

        October 7, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  16. JustSaying2U

    This is just another example of a government function (military records & annotation) being contracted out with disastrous results. A functioning MILPERCEN staffed by military personnel would've been required by regulation to review & correct incorrect awards. And bound by a code which would not allow release to the public media, too...

    October 7, 2012 at 10:14 am | Reply
  17. stateschool

    "People now get them (Silver Stars) for sitting behind a desk in an office in Afghanistan," he said. If Master Sgt. (Ret.) Raikes is correct, then that's worth an investigation. Those medals mean a great deal to many people, and they shouldn't be handed out like candy. Doing so cheapens the sacrifices made by those who truly earned a Silver Star.

    October 7, 2012 at 9:12 am | Reply
    • daex

      its true. its the same now in all branches. i was in the USAF for 8 years, it was done in the AF and i saw it first hand with the army unit i was attached to. We got called to formation for award ceremonies for army & airforce desk jockeys. We couldnt believe it, we we're the ones going out on patrols day in & day out and these jerks sat watching you tube all day and they got the awards.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:25 am | Reply
      • haha

        That's a good one! Air Force on patrols.... Must be nice doing a three month deployment

        October 7, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  18. rick1948

    It's pretty hard to swallow that the military would have done this on purpose. They like to have ceremonies and advertise their heros – especially at the Silver Star level, which is no chump change medal.

    October 7, 2012 at 8:32 am | Reply
  19. snowdogg

    The Silver Star or Silver Star Medal (awarded to Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard personnel) is the third highest military decoration for VALOR that can be awarded to any person serving in any capacity with the United States Armed Forces.

    VALOR is the key word.

    October 7, 2012 at 7:26 am | Reply
    • Joe Joe

      Its nice of you to repeat part of the articular for those unable enough to comprehend written language.

      October 7, 2012 at 8:57 am | Reply
  20. snowdogg

    Please, find some way to spin this into "Its Obama's fault"

    October 7, 2012 at 7:23 am | Reply
    • mb2010a

      Going back to 2001, would still make it Bush's fault...

      October 7, 2012 at 7:31 am | Reply
  21. Big poppa

    This military 'honor' medals might motivate some illiterate hilly-billy- but the rest of us know this is a BS crap to kill innocent people whilst the real thought behind war is to gain control of resources... PEACE

    October 7, 2012 at 6:58 am | Reply
  22. SSG Jughead

    my last tour of Iraq, ALL E7's and above was given a Bronze Star. As a result, I personally will only recognize awards given to E6 and below, if they were an awarded, it was earned and well researched before bestowed.

    October 7, 2012 at 5:53 am | Reply
  23. thugvon

    No heroes in these two bogus false flag wars anyway.

    October 7, 2012 at 2:29 am | Reply
    • realist

      good try troll. I'm sure many idiots will feed you.

      October 7, 2012 at 2:58 am | Reply
    • Seyedibar

      I agree. There's nothing respectful or heroic about invading a country that never assaulted us. Death is sad, yes, but not deserving of accolade.

      October 7, 2012 at 3:16 am | Reply
      • US Armed Forces ROCK!

        No servicemember in any service just picks up a weapon and decides to invade a country just for the heck of it. Anywhere there are servicemembers armed to the teeth for combat, you can be sure that they were sent there by their superiors. Servicemembers are, in my opinion, the biggest advocators for peace. They are the ones that see the true horrors of war first hand, and do not want to be killed themselves. As far as a servicemember being recommended for an award in an action that you don't think that they should have participated in, it does not in any way detract from the actions that that servicemember did to be recommended for the award in the first place. The only thing that upsets me about the awards process is that MANY times, a deserving award for a more than derserving recipient is often downgraded by the chain of command because they didn't recieve a higher award themselves. This is especially true of the lower enlisted.

        October 7, 2012 at 4:08 am |
      • Charles Bowen

        Put your butt in harms way and then your voice will command a little respect . Respect and Honor our military they do the jobs that most of you won't or can't and your freedoms depend on them ......Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

        October 7, 2012 at 8:09 am |
      • jorge washinsen

        It seems 9-11 was a myth as far as you are concerned.

        October 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
      • Seyedibar

        I did put my butt in harm's way. I was stationed in South Korea for 2 years. Biggest waste of time in my life. I'd have been better off spending those 4 years in grad school.

        October 7, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
      • Seyedibar

        The 9-11 attacks were perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood chapters of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. They had nothing to do with either Afghanistan or Iraq. Try again.

        October 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Kita

      No heroes in the ones who planned it, anyway.

      But can we recognize that the troops didn't ask for Afghanistan to turn out like this, and they sure didn't ask for Iraq in the first place? They still went in and put their lives on the line.

      The Vietnam comparisons in terms of the wars themselves already abound. Let's not create another Vietnam comparison in terms of how we treat veterans from these two wars.

      October 7, 2012 at 9:51 am | Reply
  24. Seared Eyes

    This guy sounds like a bitter old Soldier. His comments are disrespectful to other Silver Star recipients. And they don't just hand them out...he is a liar.

    October 7, 2012 at 1:30 am | Reply
    • Al Taylor

      haha... you must have not ever served.

      October 7, 2012 at 4:00 am | Reply
      • fekt

        or you weren't paying attention. he's right. when first asked about the silver star he whines they are handed out to guys behind desks because at that point in the converstation he doesn't realize he'd received one, something he was upset about. he was told he got one and suddenly he's happy about it and the army is recognizing peoples service. he changed his tune in about 10 seconds when told he'd won. his insinuations went further but i'll not dignify them for comment.

        October 7, 2012 at 4:49 am |
      • Kita

        I don't see a tune-change. Just because he's happy that the army's recognizing people for their service doesn't mean he can't be annoyed that there are still people who get the things like candy.

        October 7, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  25. jikfive

    Officers in the military get recommended for an award if they take a #2 and wipe all by themselves.

    October 7, 2012 at 1:03 am | Reply
    • Dingo

      It's funny because it's true.

      October 7, 2012 at 3:00 am | Reply
  26. cja

    The make it sound as if "The Army" did this. But really they hire someone to create and maintain the web sites and the guy they hired is not so sharp.

    October 7, 2012 at 12:34 am | Reply
  27. sybaris

    If you are disappointed that you didn't get an award or a lesser award then you are in the wrong business.

    October 7, 2012 at 12:25 am | Reply
  28. Hal Atosis

    They likely secretly upgraded the real heroes awards to be able to give one to a desk jockey the "supervised" them from the rear.

    October 6, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Reply
    • iceman '68

      BINGO !

      October 7, 2012 at 5:32 am | Reply
  29. Richard Larson

    The initial Army response sounds to me like a cover up in progress. The Army has had a terrible record throughout it's history relative to promptly processing the recommendations, seeing to it that appropriate standards are met for even handed processing and approval of awards and insuring that 1. the award is presented in a timely manner,2. That the award is presented to survivors in case of posthumous awards, and 3. That adequate rationale is/are presented if/when awards are down graded. If it requires setting up permanent sections within the AG Corps., then so be it. Get it done, assign responsible people in every command to comply with the new Regulation, with approved SOP's that are periodically reviewed by the Inspector General for Compliance within each command. It shouldn't take more than six months to initiate this throughout the Army and maybe then this festering sore in the reputation of the Army can be removed with some confidence that the problem will never again recur. Suggestion; give this job to the SGM of the Army and the DCSPERS. Maybe then they will realize that they have been falling down on the job. Personally I feel that the Sergeant Major of the Army has become too much of a ceremonial position. He should be tasked by the COS to perform jobs like this that require real work. I have seen very few Sergeant Majors since my first exposure to them from 1964 until 1985, who were really earning their pay and contributing to the welfare of the Army and the enlisted soldiers in their care.

    October 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Reply
  30. saeed

    europe and usa and australia are bankcrupt nuke them and relase them from there poverty nuke ireland it has 15 percent unemployment and it lost in everything at the olympic games man they even lost against china in boxing.

    October 6, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Reply
    • just wondering


      October 6, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Reply
    • just wondering

      don't worry boy we will get to you eventually

      October 6, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Reply
    • RobM

      Saeed... Really man? Have you ever even glanced at an English book?

      October 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Reply
    • reply

      Not a boy but a left handed dog with being beated by shoes!

      October 6, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Reply
    • kufunuguh

      Upset Israel shot your model plane down?

      October 6, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Reply
    • saeed_killer

      "How 'bout we nuke you, instead, little sheethead?

      October 7, 2012 at 12:45 am | Reply
    • jorge washinsen

      Don't let him yank your chain,he is not one of them. I will bet he weighs 300 pounds and never leaves the computer except to get de check.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:54 am | Reply

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