"JAG" Above and Beyond (TV Episode 1997) Poster

(TV Series)


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Wrong Medal
rbr-4129912 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
As a retired Army officer I had very mixed feelings about this episode. The actor Montel Williams really got into his role and made it believable. The character of LT Rivers had several layers. He was passionate, courageous and innovative. On the negative size he was a real jerk and cruel as a trainer. The character does not seek the award, but plays the race card when he must answer questions arising from the investigation of the rescue. That part Williams seemed to embrace with enthusiasm. The script writer, Paul Levine, who received a legal education at the University of Miami, apparently had no prior military experience. I can only wonder whether Levine submitted his script to a military advisor for review. I tend to think not. I personally don't believe the action of LT Rivers to rescue a diplomat merited the Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. military award. The number of enemy killed in the action is irrelevant to determining the merit for the award. The Medal of Honor is given for "gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty." What LT Rivers did was not beyond the call of duty, but in fact in line with his duty, although he actually disobeyed orders to rescue the diplomat. If the rescue attempt had failed LT Rivers would have been facing a court-martial, not an award. The next two awards in the military order of precedence should have been considered. The second highest award for LT Rivers would be the Navy Cross, which is awarded for "extraordinary heroism." The third highest award is the Silver Star, which is awarded for "gallantry in action." Rivers could also have been awarded the Bronze Star and Navy Combat Action Ribbon. But, it seems obvious to me that the producer wanted to have a medal presentation that would involve the President, which at the time was President Clinton. This decision itself is kind of ironic, because having been in the Army at that time I can say that while President Clinton was popular with the Hollywood Left, he was not popular among military officers. Then, the episode ends with LT Rivers leaving the Medal of Honor on the tombstone of his father. I'm sure Levine considered this a touching and dramatic gesture. It was also totally disrespectful of the Medal of Honor and something that a recipient would never do. Leaving the Medal of Honor in the cemetery for anyone to pick up is like someone stomping on the flag. So, while the story of the rescue and JAG's investigation was very dramatic, Levine's story concept of presenting the Medal of Honor was extremely disappointing and disrespectful to the military.
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