Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld announced Thursday the creation of the Defense of Freedom medal (click here for a full image)
to honor civilian employees of the Department of Defense injured or killed in the line of duty.
The Defense of Freedom medal will be the civilian equivalent of the military's Purple Heart. The first recipients to be honored will be those Defense Department civilians injured or killed recently as a result of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
At the discretion of the Secretary of Defense, the medal may be awarded to non-Defense employees, such as contractors, based on their involvement in Department of Defense activities.
The medal itself consists of a golden circle framing a bald eagle holding a shield which exemplifies the principles of freedom and the defense of those freedoms upon which our nation is founded. The reverse of the medal is inscribed with "On Behalf of a Grateful Nation" with a space for the recipient's name to be inscribed. The laurel wreath represents honor and high achievement. The ribbon is the red, white and blue. The red stripes commemorate valor and sacrifice. The wide blue stripe represents strength. The white stripes symbolize liberty as represented in our national flag. The number of red stripes represents the four terrorist attacks using hijacked airplanes and the single blue stripe represents the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
"This medal acknowledges civilian employees of the Department of Defense and other civilians in service to the Department of Defense who are killed or injured while on duty," said Charles S. Abell, assistant secretary of Defense for Force Management Policy. "It reinforces the total force concept that makes our nation so strong."