Tag Archives: utah

Execution Ribbons

Being a child of the Cold War, I was fascinated with military; both with the weapons and the uniforms. My World Book encyclopedias would fall open to the insignia entries for the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines. My interest in medals and insignia continues to this day. I can literally spend hours browsing the Army Institute of Heraldry, or Starfleet uniforms, or Imperial rank insignias.

I was bit surprised (and taken back) by the fact that the Utah Department of Corrections issue ribbons to prison guards that participate in executions. Well, more accurately, the did, now they issue commemorative coins, just like the Super Bowl. (“The staff preferred something a little more modern than the ribbons.”)

Apparently the guards “awarded” these ribbons didn’t actually wear them. I’m thinking more out of fear of retribution rather than decorum. The ribbons weren’t issued to only the firing squad, but to anyone involved. Perhaps it’s my opposition to the death penalty talking, but I find these medals morbid. While the military awards combat ribbons, many of the actions that they’re awarded for involve rescuing someone, or at least holding out against an enemy. It’s rarely for just killing. Even if it was, at least the people being killed at least are fighting back. Shooting a man that’s tied to a chair, is just state sanctioned murder.

Even as I’m repulsed by the notion of these ribbons, I stare at them and try and deduce a schema for them. Do slants represent executions? Do diamonds represent escapes? Does squares represent administrative tasks? Its frustrating not to know. I wish the picture showed them all. I even want one for some macabre reason, just to put on a shelf, or even a Wunderkammer.