I read with interest the Oct. 24 front-page story "Army Badge of Honor Now in Contention; Award Denied to GIs Retrained for Infantry" about the controversy surrounding the Combat Infantryman's Badge. On Sept. 13 my son, Pfc. Paul Skarinka, was with the injured Capt. Steve Gventer, who was featured in the article. My son was the most seriously wounded of the seven soldiers hurt in the attack, and he is still at Walter Reed Army Medical Center recovering from his injuries.
I am not sure if he will ever regain the full use of his hand and foot, but of some things I am sure:
* He was performing the same duties as an infantry soldier when the brachial artery in his arm was severed, and he almost bled to death.
* He was performing the same duties as an infantry soldier when the bones in his lower leg were left shattered by the impact of the grenade.
* He was performing the same duties as an infantry soldier when shrapnel left a gaping wound in his hip.
If my son, Capt. Gventer and the other soldiers who were hurt while conducting their mission are not deserving of the award, then perhaps non-infantry soldiers should not be assigned to infantry duties.
However, if the Army continues fortifying its infantry through reassignments, these soldiers deserve equal recognition.
CHERYL A. SKARINKA
The controversy about the Combat Infantryman Badge is not new. However, the currency of the story seems to be fostered by the modern climate of political correctness in which everyone must be "equal." In this instance, that argument just doesn't hold water.
All combat arms soldiers have a secondary mission to perform as infantry as required. But the badge is not awarded solely for performing combat operations. The key to the basis for the badge is the selection, training, performance and daily activities of a military occupational specialty infantryman while engaged in combat.
We who are tankers, artillerymen, engineers, etc., may be called to conduct and participate in infantry operations, but when the battle is over, we revert to our assigned specialties.
As a field artillery forward observer in 1965 in Vietnam, for example, I accompanied my supported infantry company on daily combat operations, sharing the same dangers and privations as the infantry soldiers. When my tour was completed, I reverted to my artillery battery, where "three hots and a cot" were daily fare, while the infantry company continued to slug it out in the jungles with cold C rations and makeshift cover.
The advice prevalent then holds true today: "If you want a CIB, change branches and become an infantryman."
I take exception to military historian and retired Army Col. John M. Collins's statement, "There isn't anything that equals the Combat Infantryman's Badge."
Many of us are proud recipients of the Combat Medical Badge. I believe it is to medical corpsmen what the Combat Infantryman Badge is to infantrymen -- equal in every regard.
WILLIAM R. FYLES