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Politics and Government alum seeks streamlined Medal of Honor process

Joseph Kinney and family

It should come as no surprise that one of Illinois State University’s alumni from the Politics and Government department has garnered national media attention for a political issue.  What might come as a surprise is the issue.

Joseph Kinney ’74 was interviewed by NBC and testified before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee about his commitment to today’s armed forces receiving military awards, specifically the Medal of Honor.

Kinney’s testimony calls for a change in “the tedious pace in which consideration for the Medal of Honor is made.”  He cited the fact that during the Vietnam War, 240 Medals of Honor were awarded for a “spontaneous and decisive action that successfully turns the course of battle and saves lives of others.”  Those medals were received within two days to a month from the date of the action. The War on Terror has seen only two Medals of Honor awarded to posthumous recipients thus far. One was awarded 900 days after the heroic action and the other two years after the date of action.

“I am determined to use every ounce of my energy to ensure that the men and women of today’s armed forces do not endure the abuse and indignities that those in my generation still experience,” said Kinney, a Marine who saw action in the Vietnam War.

In his recommendations before the House subcommittee, Kinney called for any posthumous award for valor to be granted within seven days of death where possible, for Medals of Honor awarded to living military members to be granted within 30 days, for older actions an award decision should be made within one year of the beginning of the consideration process and the inclusion of both combat experienced officers and enlisted individuals for any review process by the Department of Defense.

Kinney grew up in a household which included his grandfather, one of the last members of the U.S. Army Horse Calvary.  His family numbered many in the armed forces.  He first became interested in the award processes after concluding that “several guys weren’t getting the awards they seemed entitled to receive.” One in particular, Chicagoan Don Shanley, Kinney felt, and still feels, should be decorated for his actions.

“I think we have a whole generation of colonels and generals who’ve never been in combat,” Kinney said.  “I think some poor decisions were made early on in the Medal of Honor process, and it became easier to continue the status quo than to move in a new direction.  I also believe that some people, civilians in the Defense Department, preferred to downplay and diminish the war fighting aspects in any way they could.”

Kinney is no stranger to media attention.  In his career as a consultant, researcher, public speaker and author on security and safety information, Kinney has been interviewed on “Larry King Live,” “NBC Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America.”  He has written for The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Newsweek Magazine.

His interest in workplace safety came after his brother died in a scaffolding accident.  In trying to understand the resulting Occupational Safety and Health Administration process, Kinney said he felt ordinary citizens did not have a voice in occupational safety, security and health issues, particularly in the areas of workplace and domestic violence.  He built the National Safe Workplace Institute into a national think tank that released landmark reports and articles on those issues.  He also pioneered the web site, “SafeSpaces.com” to share safety and security information.

Kinney said his keen sense of justice is the dynamic that ties together his interests in safety and military valor. He thinks the media like people like himself who “bottom line it” and who “believe what they are saying.”

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