A Marine who earned the nation’s second-highest military valor award for heroics in Iraq is questioning why a police officer who took the stand during George Zimmerman’s trial was wearing ribbons she did not earn, including one reserved primarily for World War II veterans.
Like many Americans, Jeremiah Workman was watching Zimmerman’s trial play out on TV Monday.
It’s a trial that has been long-awaited since Zimmerman, a Hispanic, was charged with second-degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a black 17-year-old. The case brought the debate on racism in the U.S. to the forefront in the past year.
But it wasn’t the testimony that caught Workman’s attention on Monday. It was the ribbons that Doris Singleton, a police officer in Sanford, Fla., was wearing on her uniform when she took the stand.
Workman, a Navy Cross recipient who left the Marine Corps in 2010, posted a photo of Singleton to his Facebook page after he saw her take the stand. He said he heard her say that she served three years in the Army, but the ribbon rack on her chest didn’t match that of someone who served so few years — or even of this generation.
“Am I going blind or is this police officer in the Zimmerman -Martin trial wearing ribbons that she doesn’t rate?” he wrote alongside the photo he posted to Facebook.
Workman, who received his valor award in 2006 for heroics in Fallujah as a corporal during a 2004 operation, said he’s been around the top Marines in the Corps, and even they didn’t have some of those ribbons.
“I worked at the Pentagon with Sergeant Major [Carlton] Kent and General [James] Conway for two years and I was around every general in the Marine Corps,” Workman told Marine Corps Times. “I know these high ribbons, I know just about all the ribbons anyways.”
The Sanford Police Department could not immediately be reached for comment. But Workman got a hold of them and said they told him they didn’t have their own awards system, so they went to the Army-Navy store around the corner and picked out Defense Department military ribbons to fit their own format. The WWII was selected, the police department official told Workman, because they knew there weren’t many veterans from that period alive so they didn’t think people would notice.
“At the end of his explanation I thought to myself, ‘So that makes it all better now because these guys are dead?’ ” Workman said. “The fact that that was their response is still pretty shameful, I think.”
Workman said police departments allowing military veterans to wear ribbons they earned while serving on their new uniform is fine with him. If they earned it, they should be able to wear it, he said.
“But what kind of professional police department would send Bob the patrolman around the corner to go pick out some ribbons for our officers to wear when they do something heroic or have good service over the years?” he asked.
Workman said the police department official told him that they’re going to change to their own ribbon system, which he was glad to hear. Now he hopes other police departments doing the same will think about their own regulations and change them too, he added.