Legislation Assembly Democrats Bruce Land and Bob Andrzejczak sponsored to expand veterans’ eligibility for the distinguished service medal was unanimously approved by the General Assembly on Monday.
In order to qualify for a distinguished service medal under current law, a veteran must:
– Be a current resident of New Jersey or have been a resident at the time of entry into military service or have been a resident of the state for at least 20 years in the aggregate;
– Have received an honorable discharge; and
– Have served in a time of war or during a national emergency.
The bill (A-4195) would remove the requirement that an individual must have served in a time of war or during a national emergency in order to receive a distinguished service medal.
“There are so many veterans who served this nation honorably but are not eligible for a distinguished service medal simply because they never were called to go to war – even though they would have been willing to go without hesitation,” said Land (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland), a former U.S. Army Sergeant who received two Bronze Stars, one with Valor, for his service in Vietnam. “Men and women who served the United States of America should not be disqualified just because we were not in a time of war.”
“Heroics and dedication to one’s country are not defined solely on the battlefield,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland), a former U.S. Army Sergeant who was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star after losing his left leg due to a grenade explosion in Iraq. “There are many who have answered their country’s call to service and performed valiantly outside a theater of war who are worthy of this distinction as well.”
The measure also would codify qualifications for the receipt of a meritorious service medal. To qualify for the medal, a person who served in the organized militia or in federal service must have been distinguished by either (a) meritorious achievement resulting in an exceptional, but not lifesaving, accomplishment, or (b) meritorious service in support of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs or the organized militia in the performance of a special requirement or of an extremely difficult duty performed in a clearly exceptional manner.
The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.