Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

The Modern Day DBA Casualty

War Contractors Receive Defense of Freedom Medal for Injuries, But Attract Little Notice

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 18, 2010

More than a hundred contractors who have worked in Iraq and Afghanistan have been given the Defense of Freedom medal, a Pentagon citation equivalent to the military’s Purple Heart. But unlike servicemen, the contractors receive little attention.

by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica – February 18, 2010 1:08 pm EST

Falls Church, Va. — A former sheriff’s deputy from South Dakota named Tate Mallory got a medal for service to his country on Wednesday, but it didn’t get much attention.

There was no top military brass at the ceremony, no long line of politicians waiting to shake his hand. Instead, Mallory stood on a dais in an anonymous hotel room in suburban Washington, D.C., looking pleased and slightly embarrassed as he was handed a Defense of Freedom medal.

“I thought that if someone was going to get hurt, it was going to happen to somebody else,” he told the audience, which included friends, family, co-workers, State Department officials and representatives from a congressional office or two.

Mallory was a civilian contractor who worked for DynCorp, a large defense firm that helps train police in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in western Iraq in 2006, punching a hole in his gut. He almost bled to death until U.S. Marines saved him.

He is one of thousands of civilians whose deaths and injuries are not included in the Pentagon’s official list of casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A joint investigation by ProPublica, ABC News and the Los Angeles Times found that injured civilian contractors routinely face drawn-out battles to get medical treatment paid for under a taxpayer-financed federal system known as the Defense Base Act.

The Labor Department, which tracks injuries to contract workers abroad, recently updated the tally Since 2001, more than 1,700 civilian contractors have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and nearly 40,000 have been reported injured.

More than a hundred contract workers have been given the Defense of Freedom medal, a Pentagon citation that is the civilian equivalent of the military’s Purple Heart. Still, it’s difficult to track who receives the medal, which was created by the Defense Department after 9/11. Typically, corporations such as DynCorp or Houston-based KBR nominate their workers, with the Pentagon approving the final award. But there is no centralized record of recipients, nor are the award ceremonies usually publicized.

Several of those at Wednesday’s ceremony, which was sponsored by DynCorp, lamented the lack of attention. They noted that contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan usually get in the news for bad behavior — such as wasting taxpayer money or the killing of innocent civilians.

Ken Leonard, a former DynCorp employee who was also recognized for valor on Wednesday, said Americans are not always aware of the contribution made by civilian contractors at work in the war zones. Leonard had both legs amputated after being injured by a roadside bomb in 2005. After 18 months of surgeries and rehabilitation, he returned to work as a police officer in High Point, N.C.

“I’d say there was a public misunderstanding. I was there to work with the military,” Leonard said. “There’s a perception that we’re all gun-crazy, trigger-happy cowboys. That’s not the case.”

Write to T. Christian Miller at

30 Responses to “War Contractors Receive Defense of Freedom Medal for Injuries, But Attract Little Notice”

  1. jayhawk said

    yup got mine in 07, wounded in bayji, iraq mar. 05..
    not only does the public not give a damn, it takes forever to get it. at least when i got mine a two star presented it to me. i dont think we will ever be anything but “war profiteers and mercenaries” to the public, thanks to the liberal msm and their followers. the public has been brainwashed into thinking we are the scum of the earth.

  2. Marlo said

    I love how people can get the metals. I would love to see them on the front lawn of the white house getting them. With the insurance companies in tow. Giving them their medical treatment and payments they deserve.

    I am sick of people thinking that our men and women are scum. We work hard to provide for our families. I never knew it was a sin to want to do a job with pride. But the way they are treated it makes them feel like they did something wrong.

    Then when they finally get a little something it isn’t enough to keep them a float after years of fighting with the Insurance companies and the government.

  3. brit guy said

    Hey I got one of those arrived in the post always wondered what it was for.
    Got a citation with it as well says.
    In recognition of your heroism and selfless self sacrifice beyond the call of duty.
    Hey got a letter from my employer hmmmmmmmm contract holder hmmmmmmmmm tax dodger hmmmmmmmmmm whatever.
    Saying I hope this goes someway to show that your contribution and sacrifice to the reconstruction project of Iraq does not go unnoticed.
    Geeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Thanks
    How about you get the insurance company to recognize my injuries and pay for my treatment and the benefits I am entitled too. After all you do not get the civilian purple heart for getting a splinter or do you.
    How about this why don’t my family and I get enough money together so I can fly to the USA stand on the lawn in front of the White House in front of the Head of the Dept of the Army and give you the F***ing thing back.
    Nice thoughts and bits of tin do not pay the bills

  4. jim said

    i was wounded with 6 others and 4 dead outside iraq in a “unbeatable” rhino by a pair of IEDs in july 2008. nominated a few months later by KBR. 2 years no medal, hateful e-mails from the “friendly staff” who are going out of thier way to HELP me at KBR. nothing here on my homefront showing any respect, gratitude, or anything about me being there.

  5. jose said

    it really sucks that a “company like KBR gets all the credit for everithing we do I was injured while fixin a satellite in afghanistan due to an incoming, they tought that I was death cause that’s what I could here them saying until I opened my eyes, they send me back home with major injuries to my back neck middle back hand shoulder and legs,I have never received a call from my employer asking how am I doing, they just dond give a F$%%$$ about you at all,NO MEDAL no thanks for what you did no nothing your’e life is pretty much GONE so good luck b&*()&%*&,thats my life now

  6. anonymous on purpose said


    Welcome to the Wonderful World of Contracting! I only found out I had lost my job for KBR when I could not log onto my account anymore. I have NEVER been contacted by anyone who I used to work for or anyone at KBR to ask “Hey, How you doing?” or “Thanks for a job well done!”

    I gave my blood, sweat and yes tears (only alone at night when the pain got to be unbearable) for three years in Iraq and was told by the OALJ that my condition was “pre-existing???!” and “non-compensable”.

    If I won the lottery tomorrow I would make it my life’s mission to hire the meanest pit bull lawyers out there to sue every damn one of these people for fraud and perjury…these opposing attorneys (and some “supposedly” on our side) should be stripped of their law licenses and never allowed to step foot in a courtroom again, unless it would be to answer for their crimes against humanity!

    • Brit guy said

      It would be interesting to read the ALJ decision in your case about pre-existing injuries not counting.

      My attorney whom I am not saying is brilliant said pre-existing injuries are compenasable if they did not affect your ability to do your job. Under the act there is nothing stating pre-existing injuries.

      I will say that there are lots of things the act does not say but some how they get passed into law. It would appear that an act written to protect workers with clear guidelines that have become so blurred by interpretations by the OALJ instead of enforcing the act.

      Also it does not help if the examiners at the informal conference make recommendations again not connected to act.

      In conclusion it would seem that each case is an interpretation of the act depending on who hears the case rather than an enforcement of it, which makes the entire process a complete joke.

      • aledhari faris said

        I worked with the united states army for 21 month as interpreter in iraq and i am iraqi citizen i went with them for to many missions and patrols spent many nights with them outside the wire in a very tough conditions we were togather all the time i have many friend from the U.S army and i lost many of them thy died we it was sad .
        also the same for some of the iraqi interpreters they work with me many of them have killed by the insurjents either in the combat field or outside when the go to their home .
        I was one of the interpreters got shot by sniper (insurgents) during a mission and that was in 2006 on my right leg and it took me about five months to get reheal but i still can’t run and limbing and can not find a job since i moved to the states about a year ago ,well i dont know where to get my rights .
        It was my honor to serve with united states army in all over iraq in the most dangrous places in west of iraq place called Ramadi compined operations with united states navey seals and special forces and iraqi intervation forces all togather and my story is supported with pictures in the battle field but i dont know where to put it but i wish i can if there is place to .
        finaly i would like to thank all the soldiers who fought in iraq and to get the iraqi people the freedon ,GOD BLESS YOU ALL.
        Please if somebody know any way to help me to get the compensation from the insurane company and to get treatment for what happen to me (my leg) i will be gratefull.

  7. Wowe i’v been home four years. No medal. Does this medal only go to US nationals?

    • defensebaseactcomp said

      Well according to this news release from DynCorp you should have been qualified to get one.
      Plenty of contractors get these that are not direct DoD Civilian Employees/
      Looks like it’s more a matter of whether the contract companies care enough about the sacrifices that their employees have made to put them in for one.
      Hoping someone else will help us out here.

    • Brit guy said

      No it is awarded regardless of nationality you need to be nominated by your employer and I am led to believe that it has to be the result of an insurgent attack. I am not sure of all the facts. I am from the UK and was awarded the medal. It arrived through the post no fanfare nothing. It is a nice thought but it doesn’t cover medical bills or help pay the mortgage.

      • Dyncorp has dumped all the injured South African contrators at home. Once you were injured you are screwed. It become an endles fight. No South African has received the Medal to date. Maybe T.Christian.Miller should contact Mike Warren at Dyncorp and ask him whay the South Africans have not received this medal this.

  8. Eleanor said

    Reading these comments makes me very angry and sad. I don’t think that the majority of Americans know what is happening with the security contractors. I know that I had no clue until I started looking for information. I came across all of this information that is overwhelming. Overwhelming to know that our Country would treat its citizens and other citizens so badly when they are injured and in desperate need of medical help.

    For it to take two years to get medical help is outrageous.

    I know that the medal is a gesture but it is a meaningless one if there is nothing to back it up.

    I am sorry to all of you who have been injured and are now getting screwed by the insurance companies. They insurance companies are there to profit for themselves.

    This makes me angry.

    What can I as a citizen do to help? I don’t know anybody who is injured and going through such chaos right now.

    God bless you all and thank you for what you have done to help make the world a better place.

  9. anonymousonpurpose said

    Thank you Eleanor,

    I am going on 2 1/2 years! Constant unending pain which has taken over all aspects of my life!

    My lawyer threw my case and I am putting all of my hopes on the BRB…crooked insurance companies, crooked judges, crooked DOL, and crooked lawyers!

    Thank you for your kind words….

    • Eleanor said

      you are most welcome. I would like to apologize about my comment regarding the medals. The are meaningful. My comment was not appropriate. It would be nice if the Government would put some meaning behind them.

      I thought about that though and by giving those medals they are taking responsibility for what happened. If that is the case why is it so difficult to get medical attention?

      I don’t know that BRB is but if that is all you have I wish you the best. I don’t know much about how things work. I am just only learning about this mess.

      If you or anybody for that matter would like to send me an email about your story please do. I have something I am working on and I would like to include personal stories. Whether or not you want your name mentioned is up to you.

      I would like them to be factual and respectful. If you feel you need to express your anger or sadness please feel free to do so any way you want. I want it to be real.

      Please email me at

      Thank you and God bless you all. Take care of yourselves and if you need to talk send me an email anytime.

  10. Donald W. Bryant said

    I never knew about this purple heart civilian equivalent. I always had much respect for those who had a Purple Heart when I was in the service. I was a US private contractor for a British Company (Erinys International) who was working for the US Army Corp Of Army Engineers. My vehicle was hit by a lethal IED that killed two in my truck and severely wounded me and the driver. I got shrapnel in my neck, jaw, back, spine still to this day. My leg was cut up as well. Over 3 1/2 years since I was wounded in 07. The IED year of Iraq. I NEVER GOT THIS MEDAL, PROBABLY NEVER WILL. The previous poster is right. Once you get killed or wounded as a US contractor. Nobody cares and you are forgotten. I am sure I am one of thousands who got wounded in combat in Iraq or Afganistan. And haven’t been recognized with this medal.

  11. Brit guy said

    Hi Donald
    You need to be nominated by your company ask them.

    Would like to know how your treatment has been though at the hands of the insurers and how your medical care is going.

    Take care bud Your not alone

    • Donald W. Bryant said

      I will be honest. CNA has been doing their job. I hear alot of problems from others on this site. And I wish it wasn’t so for them. Sometimes there were issues but nothing major yet. I am about to do a second IME, my attorney and I want to settle with them on total permanent disability. I have been temporary for over 3 years and umemployable. . Doctors say I won’t be going back to work. Got TBI and PTSD along with chronic pain and severe hearing loss. So this will be my second IME (independent medical exam) by CNA. I didn’t like the first one. There hired Doctor totally denied me having TBI. But my VA and other Private Doctors say I do have it. Really crooked business if you ask me. It was all about supporting CNA and denying my disability payments. But they couldn’t no matter how hard they wanted to. I got blown up by a lethal bomb and two of my friend died. I almost died. It was a really close call for me. Just a 1/4″ to left or right on one of those shrapnel pieces in my neck. I would have bleed to death in 30 seconds and would not be writing you now. My Angel was there protecting me I guess so I can raise my 4 year old son.

      • Brit guy said

        Yep guess your right CNA have been doing there job by denying your disabilty and sending you to a hired gun of theirs.

        Denying your disabilty is not a major issue ???????

        I would love to know what is. Have thought what what happens if they win their argument. You say you are unable to work.

        ssso you get no disabilty no medical support nothing and you call that no major problems

  12. Roger Swann said

    I called my Congressman, in 24 hr’s they told me whose desk it was in , in Va. Was awarded in June of “08”

  13. Lee Robinson said

    I’ll keep this short.
    All contractors, what ever your role there, are there for the money. You get well paid and you know the dangers.
    So, why are you all bitching about medals and not being recognized as hereos. You got hurt trying to earn alot of money….suck it up and stop feeling sorry for yourselves.
    Yes, I did get one, I wasn’t expecting anything. Recovered over 8 months then came back to contract.
    Guys, deal with. I’m sure you’ve all had alot of sympathy and feel you’re a bigger man for being wounded and what stories you tell now at the bar…..grow up!
    Stay Safe!

    • defensebaseactcomp said

      Lee, how fortunate that you were able to recover in only eight months and go back to your contract.

      Most of the people commenting here have not been so blessed.

      They would quite prefer to be back working at their professions.

      Oddly they would prefer to have their finances, minds and body parts back than to be fighting an insurance company for their very life.

      Many of them did perform heroically under many different difficult circumstances.

      What did you do to earn your medal that only set you back eight months?

    • Brit guy said

      Glad you able to return to work I got the medal without asking for it.

      I face a lifetime of future medical care due to the injuries which have been made substantially worse due to your insurance industry and their BS policies. I sustained these injuries GUARDING AND PROTECTING AMERICAN CITIZENS.

      I hope you stay safe in your new roll and are happy to be recognised for breaking your arm or something.

      Try losing your eyesight or a limb or maybe couple and a life time of no prospects due to the American insurance industry and your corrupt politicians.

      Hundreds of UK contractors are being screwed by your country for protecting US citizens and you have the balls to come on hear and post that insult.

      Wish I had been looking after you, you prick I would have left you to die instead of risking my life to protect you.

      Unlike the those I did protect who were grateful and courteous and thankful for our efforts.

  14. Brit guy said

    Oh Yeah idiot its been over four years and my condition continues to worsen with no help and constant denial despite the medical evidence.

    Honor Liberty Justice shame your country cant live up to it

  15. anonymousonpurpose said

    Hey Lee!

    Speak for yourself kemosabi! I spent the better part of three years there…sure the money was part of it, but you don’t stay there that long in as much pain as I was in for just “money”. I have a deep love and pride for the good ol US of A and I tried to join every branch of the military when I was 18. I was turned down by all of them due to asthma!

    Who do you think you are assuming you know the reasons for people working voluntarily in a WAR ZONE!!!!


    Lee, screw you….


  16. Eleanor said

    Many contractors go to these places because they love what they do. They don’t all go for the money. It would be a difficult situation to put yourself in just for the almighty dollar. For one person to make a blanket statement about why ALL contractors go into war zones is not appropriate. Everybody has their own reason and no matter what that reason to be injured and neglected is wrong. It isn’t just about receiving a medal it is about being taken care of properly by people who said they would do just that. Our Government needs to step up and handle the situation. After receiving a letter from Jon Kyl in Arizona I don’t think they get the real picture of what is going on with these people coming back from war zones with horrific injuries only to be denied medical help or to have it put off again and again. I am still waiting to hear from John McCain on this matter.

    • defensebaseactcomp said

      Well said. No one went to get a medal for being injured you can believe that.
      But not getting the medal when it was earned because the company you worked for doesn’t give a damn is pretty bad.
      Disposable, Deniable, Casualties

  17. goose said

    to lee robinson,
    I have been reccommended for one of these medals for injuries sustained due to indirect fire from insurgents in Afghanistan and as of yet have not received it. truth be told I dont care about any damn medal, I and nine other people were injured that day, including one other contractor and eight 101st airborne unit personnel that received injuries during that attack, and as I cant speak for all of them I am sure that we all would agree you can kiss our as#! I have been contracting off and on for over 15 years, I do expect to make a living at it but I do it because the soldiers fighting the good fight deserve to have the support they needs to accomplish the mission. I served my time in the army as well, this is now how I serve my country. I am a patriot and this is what I do. Not all the contract jobs I have had in the past even pay that good, and even after getting injured, I returned to the same company to complete my contract and even signed on a new one, despite being offered other contract jobs for higher pay and higher prestige. I did that because I had a relationship with the soldiers whom I served with and at the location in which i served. we had a mutual respect for each other. I am stationed at a small operating base, where everybody knows each other and the loss of anyone, civilian or military was the loss of a brother in service. Your comment is not only ignorant and your lack of compassion for the special type of person it takes to perform under the stressful conditions of combat and the sacrifices they made in support of their country in any capacity they were able to serve is only surpassed by your unpatriotic stupidity. I too would have left you to die if I didnt frag you myself. You dont deserve this medal nor the right to ever affiliate yourself with the military or the contractors who support them.
    to the rest of you, God bless you, get well, your sacrifices are not unknown to all and certainly not taken for granted by those of us who truly understand.
    to the britguy- I am truly sorry, I have worked with many foriegn nationals from britain, india, bosnia, and the philippines and all have been my comrades. I wish you the best and appreciate from the depths of my heart all that you guys have sacrificed on our behalf, I wish that I had the power to pull our governments head out of their ass, but unfortunatly we all are dealing with the same insults from them, the insurance providers, unethical companies and assHoles such as lee robinson. My prayers are with you and your family, it takes a very special kind of person to do what you do.
    to Donald Bryant- a special thanks to you, while I was in Iraq our psd’s was provided by Erinys International, and every time we arrived in BIAP safe and by professionals. Our camp security was also provided by erinys international in Taji and again the individuals were of the upmost proffesionals. My hats off to you, im sorry for the loss of your buddies and for the sacrifice you have made as well, god bless you all.
    To eleanor, god bless you too, so few people know or understand what we do, its a blessing to know that someone out there recognizes, i dont wish for glory, but i care for my family. my wife and children are the ones who make the sacrifice so I can do this type of work. its an effort that is made by a small community of special people, its true we are compensated, sometimes even well, but i promise you its not the money that keeps us coming back, its love of country and the need to support our troops. its the care and prayers from people such as yourself that make it possible for us all, myself and my family appreciate you and all those like you..

  18. Randy lamoureux said

    I think it’s a shame that the contract workers are though of in such a bad light by so many people. I ask one question , do you want to go to a war zone , sleep in a nasty dust mite infested tent , not see your family and loved ones for months at a time , never come home from work kiss your wife and kids sit down relax and maybe have a old beer ? Well guess what , if we all thought like that then who would be over there helping out all the AMERICAN soldiers ? Not you loud mouthed ignorant idiots that’s for sure ! We contractors have a great respect for our Military and we’re there to help , so unless you want to pitch in shut your ignorant pie hole ! And or your information we don’t make that much money and we earn every cent of what we do make .

  19. SK said

    I was put in for one, have been given the “go away you dirty contractor” treatment at every turn even my congressman’s office didn’t give a crap and blew me off. Wounded in 2006 and 6 years later the only one who cares was my team leader, I’m sure I will never see it happen.

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