Membership: Cold War 1945-1991

VFW Magazine, March 1997 | Go to article overview

Membership: Cold War 1945-1991


Victory in Cold War Warrants Medal

It's been more than seven years since the end of the Cold War and still no official recognition for the veterans who waged it. Many Cold War warriors say they deserve a medal.

Editor's Note: The Pentagon's official word is that no one has proposed the creation of a Cold War victory medal Additionally, it's a move that will probably never happen because of the tremendous manpower and funding needed to process the resulting paperwork. Anyhow, here's how your fellow VFW members feel about it.

In a recent "Membership" article about the National Defense Service Medal, a VFW member from New Jersey suggested the organization should press Congress for the creation of a Cold War medal to honor the millions who served.

He pointed out that Americans who logged overseas duty between 1946 and 1990 faced Communists "eyeball to eyeball," yet have not received proper recognition. He also wrote that such a medal would be "a perfect vehicle" to expand VFW membership. His proposal received quite a positive response from readers.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that so many VFW members would be in favor of such a medal. Although it's difficult to know exactly how many, it's safe to say millions of Americans served overseas during the Cold War, in addition to the millions who served "in-country" during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Though these Americans were up against the Soviet Union-the largest enemy the United States ever faced, and was pledged to destroy the Western way of life-the majority of these veterans have nothing to show for their service. Yet they comprised a "peacetime" force that suffered casualties, disrupted families and careers and stood guard between the free world and Communist domination.

Distinct recognition of their sacrifices is non-existent. If they didn't serve during the Korean, Vietnam or Persian Gulf War eras, they didn't even receive the NDSM. They also can't join the VFW. Many Cold War vets want to change that.

"The Cold War had all the essential ingredients of an all-out hot war where combat could have broken out at any time-and did come close at times," wrote Louis T. Tuttle, a U.S. Air Force vet who served at Bitburg AFB, Germany, from 1957-60. "It was a giant military chess game where U.S. and NATO personnel and unlimited military resources were used to eventually compel the Soviets to stop their overtly threatening military/war actions"

Several military retirees wrote that their service during the Cold War, which they feel has not been properly recognized, was more important than the service which gained them VFW eligibility.

"I made 11 strategic deterrent war patrols on nuclear ballistic missile submarines in addition to other missions that I do not talk about," wrote William T. …

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