by David Phinney
Sunday October 17th 2021

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Contractors Secretly Honored, Others Celebrate their Camaraderie

Halliburton/KBR and the US Army teamed up last Friday in Houston to hand out one of the highest honors there is for civilian contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan: The Defense of Freedom medal.
The Pentagon first awarded the medal bearing the words “On Behalf of a Grateful Nation”after the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. The honor is bestowed in recognition of civilians killed or wounded while aiding the military. While it may be a national honor and recognition, the Houston event took place behind closed doors. No reporters or news media were allowed to witness the award event.


Halliburton/KBR spokeswoman Melissa Norcross said the private dinner and ceremony was a “joint decision” by the company and the Army, according to The Houston Post’s David Ivanovich:

After the event, KBR went so far as to surround honorees with security officers, escorting them to a private reception. Two uniformed Houston Police Department officers were also standing outside the hotel’s lobby.

Nevertheless, one reporter did sneak in. T. Christian Miller with The Los Angeles Times networked an invitation from the family of a contractor who was being honored. Miller notes that “The Army even refused to release the names of those it was honoring. The nation’s gratitude was delivered behind closed doors.”
The enterprising Miller then flew to Knoxville, Tenn., for a Saturday get-together of wounded contractors:

This time, there were neither medals nor executives. Instead, there were sudsy beers, loud music and the camaraderie of men and women who swapped war stories of public indifference, bureaucratic ineptitude and corporate incompetence.

Sometimes poignant, Miller adds:

….the contractors’ status as private employees on a public mission has created an uncertain future, where surviving a bullet in the head does not mean a lifetime of care and where a local bar becomes the closest thing to a veteran’s hospital.

Look for more on crontractors from Miller in the coming weeks.
ADD: Ann Lloyd put together a fabulous report for NPR’sDay to Day.
ANOTHER ADD: White Rose’s Adventures provides her coverage of the Knoxville event here and here.
More on Defense of Freedom medal here.

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