Outraged soldiers challenge medal-stripping plan
Outraged serving soldiers, veterans and their families will petition the Governor-General to block the Australian Defence Force from stripping them of their Meritorious Unit Citation.
ADF chief General Angus Campbell last week announced he was recommending all soldiers who served in Afghanistan under the Special Operations Task Group between 2007 and 2013 have their citation revoked.
The move came after distressing revelations 19 Special Forces soldiers, largely made up of the SAS and 2 Commando regiments, were allegedly involved in war crimes including shooting innocent civilians.
Now a social media led campaign has seen 1000 current and former soldiers from both elite forces unite to call to petition the Governor-General to block the move.
Even current top ADF brass up to the rank of a general don't agree with the medal stripping.
Twenty-seven-year-old Private Scott Palmer was from the Sydney-based 2 Commando and served with distinction and honour in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan before being killed in a chopper crash on a combat mission in 2010.
His parents Ray and Pam face the prospect of the ADF now taking their innocent son's citation back.
"We are of the same opinion as all of the army, a majority getting crucified by a very small minority," Mr Palmer told News Corp yesterday.
"The figures we put around our heads was 0.7 per cent were the rotten apples compared with 99.3 per cent who served our country on many rotations and did extremely good work.
"I don't see why the majority in this situation - and for us who paid the ultimate sacrifice losing our son - should have that citation taken off them.
"I don't think its fair. I'm frustrated and have been annoyed all week because of this, its not fair."
A formal letter is being drafted by the Special Forces soldiers; signing it as a public document is a big deal for some, whose careers have been based on anonymity because of the work they do or did combating terrorists and insurgents.
"Everyone affected by this decision so far we've engaged with, that's close to 1000, have agreed to lend their names to this petition," one Special Forces soldier said.
Another pointed out that up to 20 recipients of the citation were actually fallen heroes, some awarded it posthumously after being killed in combat in Afghanistan.
"We are not going to let this happen," one former SF soldier said.
"I don't understand how the chief of the defence force can on the one hand say it is so important for the Australian public to not let the action of few tar that of the many and in the same breath reprimand the many by removing that citation from everyone. He needs to abide by his own processes."
Another described it as a "slap in the face".
It is known one distressed widow, who we've been asked not to identify, has been asking comrades of her husband "what does it all mean?" as no-one from the ADF - despite the months leading up to the Brereton report release - has so far bothered to reach out to her and others.
Another soldier also raised the mental health impact this action will have.
The decision to remove the medal citation was made by the Brereton report inquiry team in the form of a recommendation.
"The Inquiry has recommended the revocation of the award of the Meritorious Unit Citation, as an effective demonstration of the collective responsibility and accountability of the Special Operations Task Group as a whole for those events," it stated.
This was based on evidence gathered that showed "sustained outstanding service" as required by the citation did not take place during that period.
Defence has declined to respond to verbal and written requests by News Corp for information about the medals' stripping.
The Defence all-hours Support Line is a confidential telephone and online service for ADF members and their families 1800 628 036.
Open Arms provides 24-hour free and confidential counselling and support for current and former ADF members and their families 1800 011 046, or through SafeZone on 1800 142 072.
Originally published as Outraged soldiers challenge medal-stripping plan