I was on a humanitarian operation during my first year of the Marine Corps. For one month, I have worked tirelessly as did the rest of my team.
I was on the team that worked the hardest. The other two teams were sent back. Our leader promised us all meritorious masts, which is above a Letter of Appreciation. Those two pieces of paper work are pretty much worthless unless you go on a board, which is unlikely because your higher ups pick and choose favorites.
Anyways, we worked our hardest making sure that basic supplies were sent to a corrupt Junta government who, for all we know, hoarded the supplies and withheld it from their starving people. In the end, we all got Letter of Appreciations (except the higher ups who all got NAMs and HSMs) and then sent home. The strange thing about that whole operation was that only some of the lower downs got the Humanitarian Service Medal. Did they do anything differently? Not that I can think of. We all did the same job, in the same place, for the same amount of hours.
Years later, a MARADMIN came out saying if you were “at this place, at this time, doing humanitarian work, you get the HSM.” I was thinking to myself, “Fantastic. I’ll take my LOA and a copy of the MARADMIN and get the award processed.” Never have I experienced such bureaucracy in the Corps. I went everywhere and asked everyone but no one was able to help me process two pieces of fucking paper. Years later, the men who did all the work (aka Junior Marines) were rewarded the least.
One day, as a civilian, I check my Marine Online account and lo and behold, there is a mysterious new award. The HSM! What the hell? I check the date on it and tried to remember what I did on that day. I was doing absolutely nothing on a ship floating outside a country that needed some Humanitarian Assistance. Unfortunately, my higher ups didn’t get permission to help them, so we just floated outside, “Just in case.” I got a medal for being a “just in case.” No, I didn’t save lives. No, I didn’t help anyone. I slept all mother fucking day on a mother fucking ship.
I love how ass backwards a lot of things are in the Corps. I can work all day and night for months ensuring that natural disaster victims get their basic supplies to live and not get the Humanitarian Service Medal for Humanitarian Service. But… if I do nothing while on a ship floating around an area that was messed up from a natural disaster, I get a Humanitarian Service Medal. It’s irony at its finest.
Hell, I ain’t complaining.
Getting awarded for nothing since 1775.