Defense Department Neuters Servicemembers. Tom Cotton Asks Why.

Defense Department Neuters Servicemembers. Tom Cotton Asks Why.

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Sen. Tom Cotton is demanding answers after the Defense Department altered the text of the most prestigious joint awards it bestows on the brave men and women who serve in the armed forces—neutering them by referring to them all with the grammatical abomination “themself.”

“I write regarding the department’s decision to incorporate ‘gender neutral’ language into decoration and award citations,” Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday. “Our military will apparently now use the word ‘themself’—which is not even a word, I hasten to add—instead of ‘himself’ or ‘herself’ to describe heroic or distinguished actions.”

Cotton’s letter draws attention to Change 5 in the Manual of Military Decorations and Awards that took effect on Aug. 7, and which The Heritage Foundation’s Cully Stimson and Dakota Wood covered in The Daily Signal last week. (The Daily Signal is The Heritage Foundation’s news outlet.)

Page 49 of the revised manual includes draft language for awards, such as this (emphasis added):

Superior Meritorious Service (e.g., PCS and Retirement awards): (Rank) First M. Last, Jr., United States (Military Service), distinguished themself by superior meritorious service in a position of significant responsibility as (position and duty assignment), from (month year) to (month year).

The revised rules, found in Department of Defense Manual 1348.33, Volume 4, will apply to the most prestigious joint awards given by the Department of Defense, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the Joint Meritorious Unit Award.

Cotton, in his letter, notes that “the previous guidance simply referred to servicemembers as ‘himself or herself.’” He also notes that “this language isn’t referring to unspecified personnel in the abstract or large numbers of troops—it refers to a specific, named person whose ‘preferred gender’ is presumably known.”

Rather than encouraging the Department of Defense to treat the brave military man or woman who lay his or her life on the line for the country with the basic dignity of referring to him or her by a pronoun reflecting his or her biological sex, or even the modern courtesy of doing so according to self-proclaimed gender identity, the rules impose a vague gender-neutral term on a specific individual, arguably dishonoring the person the department aims to honor.

Cotton notes that this change highlights the Pentagon’s apparent trend of focusing on leftist social goals rather than fixing the military’s real problems.

“The Department’s embrace of far-left gender ideology doesn’t merely subvert the English language in ways that would astonish George Orwell,” the senator writes. “Worse, it exemplifies a Pentagon leadership consumed by the fads of the faculty lounge at a time when the Army can’t hit its recruiting goals, the Navy can’t keep ships out of dry dock, and the Air Force can’t find spare parts for planes.”

Cotton gives Austin one week to answer three questions about the change:

Did you personally approve the inclusion of Change 5 in the Manual of Military Decorations and Awards? If not, when did you first learn of the change?

Under this updated guidance, may servicemembers request the use of the male or female pronoun on their award citations and at promotion and retirement ceremonies? How will those requests be treated?

What other official documentation within DoD requires gender-neutral language, such as the replacement of ‘himself’ and ‘herself’ with ‘themself’?

Cotton concludes the letter noting that he would “welcome a reply that this whole episode was just a practical joke, or a decision you immediately reversed when it came to your attention.”

The senator also cheekily opens the letter with a note on the “Mr.” when referring to the secretary of defense as “Mr. Austin.”

“If I may be so bold as to assume your ‘preferred gender,’” Cotton writes, mockingly adopting a style of deference to the self-selected “gender pronouns” that correspond with the ideology behind transgender identity. Ironically, in doing so, he grants far more deference to Austin’s own pronoun preference than Change 5 appears to do for the servicemembers the Department of Defense aims to honor.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.