What you say here hit the spot with me. I was never a medal horder like some in the military. I took what I got, and that was it. I was never like some of the guys who would protest all the way up to the top if they were passed over for a medal. A medal, in some ways, sort of cheapened the whole experience, in my mind.
This part struck me, "You see a General or Admiral and you think "Holy shit, you could paper a room with that thing."
When I first joined at 19, I went to Navy boot camp in San Diego. The first time I saw a senior officer in full dress uniform, in full regalia, it made me chuckle. It reminded me of a Christmas tree in every way. Throw some twinkling lights on him, put a few gifts around his feet, and you're done.
He had the ornaments, the tinsel, the garland, the sash, everything. It is no exaggeration to say that you could, as a matter of fact, decorate a small 4' Christmas tree with what this guy was wearing. I was unimpressed. (no disrespect to anyone, but it seemed a little silly)
When you know the real deal of what goes on, the medal lose their shine. Medals are almost exclusively for civilians. It would be very hard to impress a vet with a shiny piece of ribbon and tin.
But, I see the need for it in some circles, just not the circles I ran around in. Anyway, enjoyed your post. And I deeply understood what you said.