It is not because I’m ungrateful for my service’s efforts to recognize its people, or that I am not proud of being a U.S. Coast Guard officer. I wear only one row of ribbons because our awards system is being abused. The plethora of awards being handed out, and the relative ease with which so many personnel qualify for them, have cheapened the system. Uniform Regulations allow me to wear all my ribbons, or the three highest in precedence. Those three aren’t necessarily the ones that mean the most to me, but wearing them allows me to make my own small protest.
We used to make fun of Russian admirals—now we’re beginning to look like them! The burgeoning number of awards and the increasing ease with which awards are processed and approved have led to a corresponding decrease in their value.
As an exchange pilot with the Royal Navy (RN), I often found myself explaining the meaning of my numerous ribbons to curious RN officers. Invariably their rather cynical and sarcastic comments were that I must have received one of those ribbons for crossing the Atlantic. It is not uncommon for a Royal Navy admiral or captain to display one or two ribbons.