Congressional Gold Medal Efforts

For those of you who are tracking the Senate or House bills regarding the Award of the Congressional Gold Medal to Dust Off crews, and collectively, others who may have flown under a different call sign, here is an update as of Veterans Day 2021.

For understanding, let’s review what the Congressional Gold Medal is all about.  The Congressional Gold Medal is an award bestowed by the United States Congress. It is Congress’s highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or institutions. The congressional practice of issuing gold medals to occasionally honor recipients from the military began during the American Revolution. Later the practice extended to individuals in all walks of life and in the late 20th century also to groups. The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest civilian awards in the United States. The congressional medal seeks to honor those, individually or as a group, “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.  If you have ever sat down and researched what your peers accomplished in eleven years, we have more than surpassed the criteria for this award.

Our “nomination” began in 2015 when Senator Cornyn, TX, and MG Pat Brady announced the original nomination efforts.  The most sponsors received for that initial effort were 17 in the Senate and 10 in the House.  As of November 14th, 2021 there are ten senators and eight representatives signed on as sponsors for the currents bills before the 117th Congress.  For this bill to pass the Senate requires 67 sponsors/votes.  Sponsors are not counted until their name officially appear as a sponsor.  We have been down the pathway as late as three days ago, “yes we are onboard, and we’ll get the paperwork in” and sponsor names never appear.

Close to six months ago, a small working group was formed to determine if there is a better way to approach the approval process for this award.  The consensus was that just writing letters, was not productive. The solution is to have ACCESS.    

There is a belief that the Military Liaison officers assigned to each senator and representative are there in part to push these types of actions through to completion.  (Senator Cornyn recently replaced his Military Liaison.) Personal discussion with them, albeit they are Majors to Colonels in these positions, this is not the case.  Once the house or Senate bill is submitted, unless the Senator or Representative is actively twisting arms, whispering in ears or trading favors, or whatever, the bills are just going to sit there.  That’s the way it has been since 2015.

In October 2020, the Congressional Gold Medal was finally awarded to Merrill’s Marauders. Their situation nearly mirrors ours.  The game changer was when a law group (lobbyists) became involved and inside of three months the award had the required number of sponsors and was approved.  LTC (R) Chris Siedor, has been boots on the ground for nearly six years, knocking on doors, writing, and working every line of communications possible to obtain sponsors.  He was able to convince this group our effort was just as prestigious as the Marauders and asked for their help.

A couple of months ago, they agreed to listen to our proposal.  Last month we met with two key members and presented our information in a ZOOM presentation along with a discussion on both bills (House and Senate) for about an hour and a half– and they liked it and were open to moving forward.  On Veterans Day, the group expanded and hosted a ZOOM presentation, much more concise for 30 minutes to eight of their key staff members.  A key player is an Iraq/Afghanistan veteran with the 101st Airborne Division.  His comment of note was that ‘each soldier knew, that should they be wounded, a Dust Off Helicopter would come for them.’  He has 120 lawyers(lobbyists) working with him, most of them veterans, and many willing to jump on this project pro bono.

We are in a holding pattern now while they gather and scope out what they feel would be plausible courses of action The obvious target is the Senate as they require fewer sponsors and if the Senate jumps on board, the House will probably follow.  Folks, they have what we have lacked all along—ACCESS!

The Senators from Texas, California, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts are onboard as sponsors.  Senator Rubio (FL) and Senator Blackburn (TN) have signed on.  We’re at 16 cosponsors in the Senate. A good start but much progress left to go. It has 9 Republican and 7 Democrat cosponsors. Getting any of the Banking Committee members and VA Committee members would be great help. You can help by writing a letter, making an appointment, and talking with them in person and being relentless until you get them signed as sponsors.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the junkyard dogs take no prisoners.

When we have a breakthrough, we’ll provide additional information.

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