And so as of midnight last night, the 20-year-war is officially over. Today is the first day since 9/11 that new service members are no longer automatically authorized wear of the National Defense Service Medal. This was how the Navy announced it:
“Effective 31 December 2022, the authorization to award the NDSM to members of the U.S. Armed Forces serving on active duty on or after 11 September, 2001, is terminated. The United States is no longer conducting combat operations of comparable scale for which the NDSM has been historically authorized.”
It seems anticlimactic. No parade. No fireworks. No speech from the president. No official statement from the White House, Congress, or the Pentagon. No reflection by any national leader on the meaning of the past 20+ years, and whether it was worth the cost in dollars and lives, not to mention the loss of American influence and the empowerment of the right-wing fringe.
This ending reminds me of Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger–The president one day says, “Let’s just make it go away.”
For me, it is just one more wound of the moral injury I bear from having participated.