As you may (or may not?) know, our own Malcolm Hughes was awarded the Palm Leaf signifying his excellence in Legion Service. This award is the highest award that may be achieved by a Legion member. Screeeech! (sound of tires braking hard on pavement) Or is it??
Technically, according to the Legion’s Ritual, Awards, & Protocol Manual, the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) is the highest award that can be bestowed to an Ordinary Member. And that award can only be achieved if Dominion Command has accepted the member has proven him/herself worthy through a gauntlet of tests of such import that I know this mere mortal would never be so fortunate as to attain.
The Manual lists eleven detailed criteria by which a member should be assessed prior to any thought of that comrade’s name being put forward for consideration for the MSM. The Manual clearly states that “these are but a few examples of the type of effort that should be considered when recommending a comrade for an MSM”. The underlying premise of the MSM is that it should only be awarded to a comrade whose Service to the Legion so exceeds that of any other member that it can only be properly recognized by bestowing the MSM.
But wait, there’s more! The person must have already followed the normal progression for major awards and has previously been awarded a Life Membership.
So what is the Palm Leaf if not the highest award? Well, I’m glad you asked that question. Basically it is the Meritorious Service Medal on steroids. It is the MSM2. It is the Feather in the Cap. It is the Cherry on top of the whip-cream on top of the ice cream on top of that perfect dessert. It is …, well you get the picture.
What does that mean? Let me explain. In order to be considered for the award of the Palm Leaf, the person must have already achieved the Meritorious Service Medal AND in the subsequent 5 years (at least) continue to provide service to the Legion that equals or exceeds that which earned him/her the MSM in the first place. But wait … none of the deeds the candidate had performed to earn the MSM are entitled to be considered for the Palm Leaf Award. That’s right – None, Zilch, Nada! In other words – a clean slate. The criteria for the Palm Leaf is the same as for the MSM but the activities identified must be fresh and distinct from those previously performed and submitted for consideration regarding the awarding of the Meritorious Service Medal.
While commonly referred to as the Palm Leaf Award, the Palm Leaf is not, in itself, a separate award. The Manual refers to it as “The Palm Leaf to the MSM”. In other words it is a notable amplification of the tenets required after achieving the MSM itself! It tells all others that not only has this comrade achieved the Meritorious Service Medal but that he/she has achieved the Meritorious Service Medal with Distinction.
So, is it the Highest Achievement awarded? Of course it is. Is it the highest Legion award? I guess that is a matter of semantics. In reality and “commonspeak” – Absolutely!
But why the Palm Leaf? Another great question. Whereas the Olive branch has long been associated with Peace, the Palm Leaf/branch has been associated with various attributes over time depending on culture and religion. But what has persisted since 400BC is the association of the Palm leaf/branch with Victory. In Archaic Greece, the victors of athletic events were awarded a palm branch. In 293BC, the Romans adopted this practice with vigor. The symbol was so entrenched, the latin word palma was used interchangeably to mean either palm or victory. And the association of the palm leaf/branch to victory continued through time. Many of the WWI monuments were designed to incorporate the palm leaf to symbolize Victory with Integrity. So it is no wonder that the Legion, which was born from necessity following WWI, at some point adopted the palm leaf as a meaningful symbol. One ancient Roman custom is certainly analogous to the present day award of the Palm Leaf to the MSM. The toga palmata was a toga ornamented with a palm motif; it was worn to celebrate a military triumph by only those who had a previous triumph. Sound familiar?
So the answer to the question: A Palm Leaf – What’s That?
… It’s a BIG DEAL!!!
And in the words of the late great Paul Harvey, “And now you know … the rest of the story”.
Congratulations Malcolm. And thank you for your dedication and service to the Legion and in particular to Branch 291!
You can read more as featured in an article written by Krista Conrad for Okotoks Today here.
So that’s it for the intent of this BLOG post. You can stop reading at this point. But I thought I would add a bit of a postscript. So continue reading if you would like.
I recently restored a WWI photo. It was a 3 1/2 x 5 inch photo of a WWI soldier. It was creased, cracked, and stained with areas where the emulsion had been damaged. I was asked to restore and ultimately provide an 8 x 10 inch print suitable for framing. I did, but while I was working on it, I foresaw the possibility of having to present the photo at times during the restoration process to garner feedback. In thinking on how best to proceed I decided, if need be, to use the BEFORE & AFTER slider technology.
As an example: (Just mouse over the picture to activate the slider)
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the meeting on June 30th, but I learned that Malcolm had made it well known that his achievements would not have been possible without the support of his wife, Jenny. One of the pictures I saw I think portrays that sentiment better than mere words could convey. Coupled with the presentation of what is none other than a true Lifetime Achievement Award, I thought perhaps the Before/After slider might be adapted to dramatically exhibit the “journey” taken. Malcolm, you are an inspiration to the membership of this branch and to the Legion as a whole. Well Done and Well Deserved!! (Thanks, in part, to Jenny!)
Anyway … that’s it for this Post. By the way, if you haven’t subscribed to our BLOG posts now is the time. You don’t want to miss out on future posts. Just head over to the right sidebar and and fill out the subscribe form. You’ll receive an email asking you to confirm and you will be all set. If you don’t see the email after a short time, check your spam folder just in case it ended up there.
In case you were wondering, the picture of the WWI soldier is that of Malcolm’s granddad.