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.