Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Army urged to probe Silver Star discrepancy

Army urged to probe Silver Star discrepancy
Army Times
By Joe Gould
Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Oct 3, 2012

A California lawmaker who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine Corps officer wants the secretary of the Army to take a closer look at nine possible Silver Stars to make sure they were awarded to their recipients.

At least one of the nine, a retired Special Forces master sergeant, said that if he and two others were approved for the Silver Star, they were never told. Ronnie Raikes told Army Times he was badly wounded while on a team that in late 2001 infiltrated southern Afghanistan and protected Hamid Karzai, then a little known statesman hunted by the Taliban and now the country’s president.

Raikes said he and two others from the 11-member Operational Detachment Alpha 574 received the Bronze Star in 2002 for their actions. The team left Afghanistan after a friendly fire bomb attack that killed three soldiers and wounded Raikes and several others, as reported in the book, “The Only Thing Worth Dying For.”

“If we did receive the Silver Star, it would be significant to me because it says the Army is doing right by us,” said Raikes, 50, of Clarksville, Tenn. “We worked our asses off, and we didn’t know then that Hamid Karzai would be president.”

The other two listed as Silver Star recipients on the database from Raikes’ team are Michael McElhiney and Gilbert Magallanes. In congressional testimony advocating for better health care for veterans, Magallanes’ wife said the bomb attack left him with an extensive brain injury and a raft of medical problems.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a member of the House armed services committee, made a request to Army Secretary John McHugh days after a database that contained Social Security numbers for some of the Army’s highest award recipients wound up online.

That database also contained nine more Silver Stars than the Department of Defense’s listings, Hunter said in the Oct. 3 letter to McHugh.
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