“The Navy Distinguished Service Medal was originally senior to the Navy Cross [just below the Medal of Honor], until August 1942 when the precedence of the two decorations was reversed. Currently [dad’s time], it is worn after the Defense Distinguished Service Medal [after the Navy Cross] and before the Silver Star Medal.”
“The Navy Distinguished Service Medal is bestowed upon members of the Navy or Marine Corps who distinguish themselves by exceptionally meritorious service to the United States government in a duty of great responsibility. To justify this decoration, exceptional performance of duty must be clearly above that normally expected, and contributes to the success of a major command or project. Generally, the Distinguished Service Medal is awarded to officers in principal commands at sea, or in the field, whose service is of a manner to justify the award. However, this does not preclude the award of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to any individual who meets the service requirements. The term “great responsibility” implies senior military responsibility, and the decoration is normally only bestowed to senior Navy flag officers and Marine Corps general officers, or extremely senior enlisted positions such as the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy or the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. In rare instances, it has also been awarded to Navy captains and Marine Corps colonels, typically those in positions of significant responsibility in direct support of senior flag and general officers, and then only by exception.”
This is “and only then by exception” presentation, twice.
Dad was USMC, but that’s still part of the Department of the Navy, and at this level, the award is from the Navy. I don’t have the citation for the description of the “great responsibility” in its particularities of circumstance – just the fact of it from the archives in Millington, TN.
Here’s the deal: Even though there are particularities of circumstance that point to the actions of one particular individual, any medal, this one in particular, is dependent on the the brotherhood in which one finds oneself, that brotherhood setting up the structure, the circumstances in which any one guy might well shine, just doing what he had to do in all those unrepeatable particularities. Thus, even for the Medal of Honor, the guy receiving it unfailingly says that he’s receiving the medal for everyone who was there, as they were all depending on one another, and if they happened to be singled out in a particular nanosecond to do the necessary, that’s where the always repeated statement comes in: “I only did what any one of the guys would do.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not reducing all medals to “participation awards” that dumb down competition and a striving for excellence among our youngsters in our now ultra-liberal NEA public schools. Just the opposite. For guys in battle, a medal like this, whoever wears it later, speaks for all, inviting one to be put before that which is much bigger than any individual, a common love of God and Country, Pro Deo et Patria.
And yet, an account of what actually took place in all the unrepeatable historical circumstances is inspiring. We’re not just souls, but we also have bodies in particular places. To see what someone else has gone through when put before a decision of honor is surely inspiring. I wish I could get my hands on the accounts for the medals…