ALL military medals are for service, whether it be active, distinguished, gallant, peacekeeping, or just long.
To an informed observer, the medals and ribbons worn on military uniforms are a succinct encapsulation of an individual’s service history.
There has been much uninformed commentary on the LNP’s Longman candidate Trevor Ruthenberg’s online claim to have received an Australian Service Medal for his 6½ years of RAAF service.
That Ruthenberg (pictured) served and was awarded a medal is not in doubt.
It’s just that he received an Australian Defence Medal, awarded to all those who have served for four years in the Australian Defence Force since the end of World War II.
Gazetted in 2006, the ADM was something of an afterthought, intended to recognise those who have served and contributed to Australian defence efforts, including those who may not have been deployed outside the country.
There are three Australian Service Medals.
The first was awarded to all those who served a minimum 18 months in the ADF during World War II, whether they were deployed overseas or not.
In 1996 an exhaustive review of Australian awards recommended the introduction of two Australian Service Medals: one to recognise certain categories of service, short of war, from 1945-1975, and a second to cover similar service post-1975.
The medals have different, distinctive ribbons and are never issued alone, having a series of clasps that indicate either the geographic location or nature of the operation for which they were awarded.
Individuals may be awarded multiple clasps for different deployments.
Both medals were replaced in 2012 with the Australian Operational Service Medal, which will have different ribbons to identify separate operations. Anyone who has served four years who has qualified for an ASM will also have an ADM.
The post-1975 and the ADM both have on their reverse side the words “For Service”.
It is not unknown for those of us with a more than passing understanding of Australian medals and awards to inadvertently refer to the ADM as an ASM.
Given Ruthenberg’s age and service, had he been deployed to a qualifying area, he would have received the post-1975 ASM.
Ruthenberg’s behaviour does not fit the pattern of military impostors who habitually inflate their actual military service or invent personas they never had.
He openly admits his RAAF service in a ground support role was entirely in Australia, and that he has no entitlement to an ASM with an appropriate clasp.
No evidence has been produced so far showing him wearing anything but the ADM to which he is entitled. Misidentifying a military medal is not a hanging offence – except, it seems, in the cauldron of politics.
Claiming non-existent military awards or service is an offence under the Defence Act.
In May, West Australian federal Labor MP Barry Urban resigned after being exposed as a military impostor.
He’s not alone.