Pentagon Reverses ‘Gender-Neutral’ Award Policy Following Heritage Exposé

Pentagon Reverses ‘Gender-Neutral’ Award Policy Following Heritage Exposé

Sep 13, 2023 7 min read

WASHINGTON—Less than two weeks after The Heritage Foundation exposed a Department of Defense rule forcing service members to use the gender-neutral word “themself” for the six highest joint military awards, military leadership has now distanced itself from the controversial plan.

On Sept. 1, Heritage Senior Legal Fellow Charles “Cully” Stimson and Senior Research Fellow Dakota Wood, retired Navy and Marine Corps officers respectively, wrote about the Pentagon’s revised policy to existing rules, explaining how Change 5 to the Manual of Military Decorations and Awards required the military to use the progressive and grammatically incorrect word “themself” when bestowing some of the highest military honors upon our brave men and women in uniform. Stimson and Wood wrote for The Daily Signal:

“There are two sexes: male and female. When a member of the U.S. armed forces earns a military decoration or award, he or she deserves to be recognized in that member’s official citation by the pronoun ‘he’ or ‘she,’ not some woke, grammatically incorrect pronoun demanded by elitist Biden administration apparatchiks.”

Following the Daily Signal report, members of Congress and everyday Americans expressed outrage. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin both spoke out in opposition to the policy.

On Sept. 13, the Pentagon retreated, issuing a clarification that the Department of Defense will not ban the terms “himself” and “herself” after all.

“The change in the DoD Manual was not intended to restrict use of the citation pronouns,” said a DoD official to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “However, in order to avoid confusion in the future, we are adding a clarifying comment that ‘themselves’ can be replaced with ‘himself’ or ‘herself’ as appropriate.”

Change 5, found in Department of Defense Manual 1348.33, Volume 4, applies to the six most prestigious joint awards given by the Department of Defense, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the Joint Meritorious Unit Award.

The clarification is troubling as it confirms that the default pronoun is “themself” and raises additional questions as who signed off on this change, whether services members must request their preferred pronoun in an award, and why this change was made in the first place.

The Heritage Foundation has repeatedly criticized the rise of “woke” policies in the U.S. military and condemned the Biden administration for using our armed forces as a taxpayer-funded vehicle to advance progressive policy ideas.

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