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Six Flags park in Illinois cancels use of military ribbons for security guards’ uniforms

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Robert Smith, a former Marine corporal, filed a complaint after a recent visit to Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Ill., when he saw security guards there wearing military ribbons on their uniform. An official with the park said they were cancelling the program, effective immediately.
(Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Ill., has confirmed that their security guards will no longer wear repurposed military ribbons on their uniforms after a former Marine corporal issued complaints about the policy.

Robert Smith, an infantryman who served in the Corps during the first Gulf War, said he recently showed his son the awards he earned during his time as a Marine. But when they walked through the ticket gates at the Six Flags amusement park on Saturday, his son pointed to the security guards and told Smith they were wearing ribbons just like his.

“I saw a 23- or 24-year-old wearing a Combat Action Ribbon with two gold stars,” Smith told Marine Corps Times. “Another guy had four rows of three ribbons. I know gunnery sergeants or staff sergeants when I was in that didn’t even have that many.”

Smith said he asked the security guard wearing the Combat Action Ribbon what the stars stood for, and he said they represented reuniting lost children with their parents. All day at the park, Smith said he was offended every time he saw another security guard’s ribbon rack.

“Every award I have means something to me,” Smith said. “It was belittling and hurtful to have [my son] say, ‘Oh, look. He has the same ribbons as you.’ ”

Marine Corps Times contacted Six Flags Great America on Monday to inquire about their ribbon program. By Tuesday, the park cancelled their use of repurposed Defense Department ribbons.

“We have the utmost respect for the men and women who serve our country and the rewards and recognition they earn,” said Katy Enrique, communications manager with the park. “It was never our intention to undervalue military ribbons by using them as part of our park’s recognition program.”

The uniform policy was not a company-wide policy, so only applied to the Illinois location, Enrique said.

Smith, who lives in Milwaukee, Wisc., and went on to become a firefighter and paramedic, said he was pleased to hear the policy was cancelled so quickly, and was disappointed park officials didn’t realize it was wrong when it was first started.

“Such a quick response shows that this is something that never should’ve been done in the first place,” he said.

Now veterans attending the park won’t have their awards diminished by seeing them on security guards’ uniforms, he added.

Enrique said officials at Great America “apologize profusely for any disrespect that we may have caused others.”

In July, Navy Cross recipient Jeremiah Workman called the police department in Sanford, Fla., after he saw one of their officers take the stand in the George Zimmerman trial. Workman questioned why she was wearing ribbons she couldn’t have rated.

Like Six Flags, Sanford was using Defense Department ribbons repurposed for their own use. Within days of Workman’s call, that department also changed its ribbons policy.

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  1. Ill. Six Flags cancels use of military ribbons for security guards’ uniforms — OFFduty+ Says:
    August 20th, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    [...] Read more. [...]

  2. Rodger Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 12:52 am

    This guy needs to get over it. Real military members do not define themselves by little pieces of cloth.

    “Every award I have means something to me,” Smith said. “It was belittling and hurtful to have [my son] say, ‘Oh, look. He has the same ribbons as you.’ ”
    I hope he is not raising his son to be as overly sensitive as he is.

  3. Slash Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 2:23 am

    Overly sensitive? hardly.
    If six flags wants their employees to wear ribbons then they can develop their own instead of stealing from the department of defense.

    There’s nothing to “get over.” It’s diminishing the esteem and accomplishment of the awards. They’re called “military” ribbons for a reason.

  4. TW Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 4:21 am


    While there is nothing wrong with working at Six Flags, or having a recognition program… there IS something wrong with taking my “military records” (essentially, that’s what ribbons are) and giving them to a civilian who has never served.

    The day I see someone with the Afghani Campaign Medal on and they’ve never been to Afghanistan… I might want to locate the nearest surplus store, make them wear all this gear, and worry about incoming missile/morter/rocket attacks that could easily kill them in a split second. It’s not about the RIBBON (RODGER)…. it’s about what the ribbon stands for!!!

    Clearly Rodger has never served…. IN COMBAT.

  5. Mike Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 7:18 am

    No such thing as a former Marine. Just sayin’. SF.

  6. PE Exam Study Blog Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 8:51 am

    I agree with the corporal’s complaint and the park’s reaction. It is 100% corrupt to use something created with a very specific meaning, and to then demean it. I’m using “demean” with the exact correct definition.

  7. BigJohn Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 9:24 am

    I never thought an amusement park would promote “fake warriors”.
    Minimum wage flunkies with Combat Action Ribbon.
    At least they fixed it.

  8. Mike Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Hey, get off my dick for pissing on corpses. But those little bits of colored fabric on your shirt are OFFENSIVE TO MY SERVICE®.

    Marines can be such fucking babies immediately after complaining that the world is getting too PC.

  9. PFE Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Combat service is not the only service worth having. If you feel that way, there is a great hotline that can really help. Thanks Rodger and Mike for your service.
    That being said, I do not feel civilians have any idea what we give up for their benefit from the moment we enlist. Isn’t it illegal to wear these ribbons unearned and/or out of uniform?

  10. Warren Crandall Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Repurposed military ribbons shouldn’t be worn by security guards. However there is a problem. Say they wear a ribbon that’s made specifically for them. No matter what they design it’s gonna look like some ribbon from some military unit somewhere. I’ve heard the same argument over security guard badges and uniforms. I had a guy complain about the color of my own uniform. My reply was OK if you don’t like this then what color and police department should I look like. However, I would not wear a ribbon on my uniform for several reasons. Most importantly, it would get in the way if I have to make a citizens arrest. Second, if it’s for doing a job well done, then a simple thank you is enough.

  11. KAS Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 11:58 am

    BigJohn, many of those “minimum wage flunkies” as you label them, are combat veterans themselves, and never had an issue with the use of the ribbons. A ribbon is a ribbon. The uniform that it is worn on dictates it’s relevance to THAT particular position. Also, even though I would never equate a security guards sacrifices with those of someone in the military, they, themselves, are put in harms way. Obviously, you haven’t had any interaction with Great America’s current attendees.

  12. Jon Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Not that big of a deal military officers know what they did and he calls his self a Marine

  13. JonSucks Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Jon up here thinks everybody in the military is an officer. You should listen to this guy. He really knows what he’s talking about.

  14. VistaRebel Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Rodger..when you grow up to be a man are you going to join the military and put your life on the line for our country? Of course not..working at Taco Bell you’ll never receive a piece of cloth to be proud of. Actually, you never have anything to be proud of. Love it or leave…loser

  15. Win a Medal of Honor For Catching a Shoplifter in the Gift Shop | The Outrider Says:
    August 22nd, 2013 at 3:55 am

    [...] a Medal of Honor For Catching a Shoplifter in the Gift Shop Six Flags in Illinois decided to award a Combat Infantry Badge for reuniting lost kids with their pa… After someone complained, they rightfully discontinued the policy of re-purposing military awards. [...]

  16. NavyCross 0311 Says:
    August 22nd, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Look, you’re all being way too sensitive about this. The ribbons don’t mean that much. If you think that defines you and you’re proud to have them, great. I bet that security guard was proud to be recognized for his work reuniting lost children, and I bet those parents were proud too. Police departments across the county use ribbons which are of similar or are exactly the same design as many military ribbons. I was awarded a Navy Cross, a highly esteemed honor. But I don’t get upset or offended when I see a police officer wearing the same ribbon which in Chicago is the blue star award for bein critically or fatally wounded? No I don’t. I know what my awards are and I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I think this guys sensitivity and guilt for not having lived up to his OWN expectation of service, and the fear that his child will think less of him clearly show that he isn’t proud of himself. Leave the security guards alone and let them earn their stripes too…

  17. Regina Says:
    August 22nd, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Why does the defense department sell them anyway? If they didn’t want them to be used for anything else maybe they shouldn’t be making a quick buck on them. There are other factors to consider than I’m mad at someone else being recognized for something they feel accomplished for achieving. God bless America.

  18. mark Says:
    August 23rd, 2013 at 1:55 am

    all you liberals need to thank these veterans so you can walk around babbling bullcrap! vets earned the right to wear the awards, you freeloading babies need to do something for your country rather than being such freaking sponges and p***ies!

  19. KAS Says:
    August 23rd, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Wow, Mark, great job at generalizing. I seriously don’t think there are too many liberals reading the Marine Times.

  20. Daniel F Smith Says:
    August 23rd, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    I am a 26 year Veteran of the US Army and a Disabled Combat Vet I have earned 37 military awards and at the time my service ended I was an E-7 SFC, I am also an employee of Six Flags Security in Texas. I do not have a problem with the use of the ribbons, there are other companies and organisations that use the ribbons even law enforcement and fire departments. The Corporal is not correct. The Stolan Valor Act reads an individual who, with intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit, fraudulently holds himself or herself out to be a recipient of the award. Clearly Six Flags only uses these ribbons to signify the level of training the security offices have attained and is in no way a claim of military service or honor.

  21. JS Says:
    August 25th, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    I’m so tired of former military personnel whining about getting credit. Most serve 3-4 years when they are 18, and reap benefits for life. Most never face any danger, and enjoy being able to say “the sandbox” to anyone who will listen. Real men don’t constantly need their egos stroked. Real men don’t have to constantly tell everyone they served.

    The real heroes of America are those who put themselves in harms way and receive almost no credit. Law enforcement and emergency services.

    Let the whining about my statement begin. “Men”.

  22. justin Says:
    September 9th, 2013 at 4:45 am

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