COLUMBIA - Gov. Mark Sanford said Monday he is working on creating a separate state award honoring soldiers injured or killed in action.
The Republican has been criticized for not bestowing the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina's highest civilian honor, on fallen soldiers.
"I just don't think that's the award to do it," he said after presenting the award to members of the governor's Base Realignment and Closure Advisory Committee. "As important as civic service is, to put it on par with losing an arm or never being able to walk again or losing your life, is a very different thing."
The governor determines who receives the Order of the Palmetto, based on recommendations.
Mr. Sanford, who faces re-election in November, said his June 23 visit to a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, prompted him to develop a new award for active duty military, firefighters and police.
Mr. Sanford did not have a timetable for the new award.
In November, Mr. Sanford faces Democratic Sen. Tommy Moore, of Clearwater. Mr. Moore's campaign questioned the timing of a new award.
"I'm sure it would mean more to the families of fallen soldiers to have a governor who supports and reveres our military heroes all the time, not just right before an election," said Moore spokeswoman Karen Gutmann.
Another frequent Sanford critic is Sen. Jake Knotts, R-West Columbia.
The retired law enforcement officer introduced a resolution in February requiring that soldiers killed in action receive the Order of the Palmetto posthumously.
The proposal died after some senators opposed mandating the award, saying it's the governor's discretion.
Mr. Knotts, who also criticized Mr. Sanford for vetoing legislation that would have made it illegal to protest at funerals, briefly considered running for governor as a petition candidate.
Mr. Sanford awarded the Order of the Palmetto on Monday to four retired military officers: Vice Admiral Albert Baciocco, Maj. Gen. Thomas Richard Olsen, Brig. Gen. James Shufelt and Maj. Gen. James Gardner Jr.
He credited South Carolina's net gain in military jobs largely to their lobbying efforts.
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