David French provides an anecdote that poses a question:
In January 2008, a small team of American soldiers was ambushed after an al-Qaeda terrorist faked a surrender (this was common practice). The team leader and another officer were mortally wounded the instant the terrorists opened fire. The senior noncommissioned officer was pinned down and unable to take effective control of the formation; other officers were worked desperately to retrieve their fallen comrades. A Sergeant First Class took immediate control of the situation, personally returning fire and killing the majority of the attackers, directing the team’s defense, and coordinating the recovery under fire of his stricken team members. He shepherded the formation out of the kill zone and coordinated the medical evacuation.
All in a day’s work, you say? How about this additional fact: He did all of this after being shot in the neck in the opening moments of the ambush. He killed the enemy, protected his comrades, and led them to safety while bleeding profusely — collapsing only after help arrived. I’m not sure about you, but I can’t even imagine what I’d do in a similar circumstance.
I’m just glad I never had to find out.
The SFC was awarded a Silver Star, by the way. Our country’s third highest award for valor.
Despite its symbolic importance and educational role in military culture, the Medal of Honor has been awarded only six times for service in Iraq or Afghanistan. By contrast, 464 Medals of Honor were awarded for service during World War II, 133 during the Korean War and 246 during the Vietnam War. “From World War I through Vietnam,” The Army Times claimed in April 2009, “the rate of Medal of Honor recipients per 100,000 service members stayed between 2.3 (Korea) and 2.9 (World War II). But since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, only five Medals of Honor have been awarded, a rate of 0.1 per 100,000 — one in a million.
So what’s a guy got to do, die?
Do we no longer believe in the concept of “honor”, at least as it applies to living soldiers? Are we so concerned about what a MoH awardee might do later in life that we deny him his due for what he has already done?
Or is it this: Are those in the rear with the gear – and those even further back than that – so envious of recognition deny it to those who have earned it? And if that is true, what has become of that mild charity and kind deference that once defined a greater generation?
Whatever the answer, it’s a national disgrace.