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Medal of Honor to living soldier?

The Pentagon has recommended that the White House consider awarding the Medal of Honor to a living soldier for the first time since the Vietnam War, according to U.S. officials. Read the full article.

By Jodi Westrick  |  July 1, 2010; 7:42 AM ET  | Category:  National Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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If an act was courageous enough to support a Medal of Honor, the Pentagon shouldn't hesitate to award one.

However, the frustration over the lack of Medals of Honor being awarded to living servicemen is a little unwarranted. Hundreds of thousands of men died during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Tens of thousands died during the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Even though the war in Afghanistan has been the longest in US history, we only passed the 1,000th death mark a few weeks ago.

The nature of warfare is just...different. Because of technology, our military members often show impressive bravery, but they rarely face the gruesome battles that were waged in the past. It would cheapen the significance of the MOH if it were awarded out of obligation as opposed to true merit.

Long story short: History should be a guide, and if our men our showing the same kind of bravery as their predecessors, they should get the same recognition.

Posted by: alc0f7 | July 1, 2010 8:29 AM

WAPO, get your tech right - I voted on your poll and neither my, or apparently anyone else's vote recorded. Fix it.

Posted by: dave19 | July 1, 2010 8:35 AM

I agree with alc0f7, while certain heroic actions merit the metal of honor, the opportunity for those heroic actions has (thankfully) been reduced by Americas modern warfare technology.

A lot of the medal of honor recipients received them for carrying the flag during battle. By picking up the flag, they were essentially encouraging the opposing army (a few hundred feet away maybe) to aim directly at them. I don't know if they were crazy, brave, or both, but doing that certainly deserves one heck of a recognition.

Posted by: wolfcastle | July 1, 2010 8:38 AM

Unless you mean soldier as "Soldier", ie a member of the US Army, this article is not correct. The Vietnam War ended in April of 1975 with the fall of Saigon. In June 1967 the USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was sailing in international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean when it was attacked by the Israel Defense Force, causing Commander William McGonagle, Captain of the USS Liberty, to be injured, killing and injuring other members of his crew, and severely damaging the ship. Capt. McGonagle maintained control of the ship until help arrived, and after healing from his wounds was presented the Medal of Honor for his actions on the Liberty in 1968. Capt. McGonagle was my Commanding Officer at the University of Oklahoma ROTC Unit and was a profound inspiration to many midshipmen and junior officers.

Posted by: jhcarp | July 1, 2010 9:04 AM

This is a stupid polling question...

Posted by: WildBill1 | July 1, 2010 9:12 AM

Absolutely it should be awarded to any military member that happens to be alive and meets the criteria for the award. The Medal of Honor is awarded "for conspicous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty," whether or not the nominee happens to be alive or dead. Wholeheartedly agree w/ WildBill1.

Posted by: patvelaz | July 1, 2010 9:31 AM

I cannot believe the Washington Post would post such question for a public vote. You have just denigrated the sacrifices of all those who paid the ultimate price for this nation. Shame on you Washington Post. Are you suggesting that only dead servicemembers are worthy of such award? Until you have personally seen the courage actions of these fine young men and women in combat, shut up and take this poll off your website.

Posted by: averagecitizen2 | July 1, 2010 9:42 AM

The Medal of Honor is awarded for acts of bravery 'so conspicuous, at risk of life' as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades' AND 'beyond the call of duty.'

I am quite familiar with combat circumstances in which combat awards are deserved - having engaged in severe infantry fighting in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. As a commander in both wars I made recommendations for both living and posthumous awards up to Distinguished Service Crosses (two of which were awarded posthumously). I recommended none for Medal of Honor. That was, I suppose because I had, and still have, a pretty high standard for what I consider is within the scope of 'call of duty'

It is true that the type of actions soldiers find themselves in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars rarely require one brave individual breaking away from his pinned down buddies to assault enemy insurgents, or cover a retreat.

But you know what? Our volunteer soldiers and their small unit leaders, Army or Marines, in both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are so superbly trained and experienced over repeated deployments today, both as individuals and as teams that, while life and death situations confront them daily, they simply don't let themselves get into situations where the extremely brave actions of one man is required to save the day.

And they almost always follow the crude, but penetrating truth expressed by Gen George Patton "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other dumb bastard die for his country."

Compare the losses by US troops to those by the Insurgents opposing them is a tribute to just how good our Army is today, and why, for all the publicity attendant to the one or two casualties reported by media a day, how few casualties we actually suffer, when compared with past wars.

While still winning all my battles in Korea, for which I am deservedly proud, my draft-soldier company suffered 67 killed in action and 247 wounded over a 18 month period. That would be judged a calamity in today's wars.

What seemingly is too little recommended by the Pentagon, and publicly awarded by the President are 'Presidential Distinguished Unit Citations' for sustained success in our current wars by our superb fighting units.

Col (Ret)Dave Hughes, DSC, SS w/2OLC, PH w/OLC
CIB w/Star

Posted by: dave19 | July 1, 2010 10:01 AM

You have to wonder how many people at the Post who write actually served in the US military. Often I get the feeling that most of the writers or columnists have their allegiances with some personal interest - be it race relations, women's issues, politics, then the country's welfare as a whole. I truly think the people who write for the Post just don't "get it" to use their own marketing phrase. I think one of the things that the Post should make their writers and columnists do each 4th of July is walk through Arlington cemetary. Just walk through it and read the names on the tombstones of those that gave all.

Posted by: steven7753 | July 1, 2010 10:05 AM

The posting of this poll reflects an extraordinary lack of respect, knowledge and perspective on the part of the initiator and an extraordinary failure of the Washington Post editorial staff. I'd recommend a military embed assignment in Afghanistan for the poller.

Frankly, I am ashamed for the Washington Post. I don't know how you could stand in front of a US Military unit and say you ran this poll. Young men and women risk their lives for your safety and "freedom" to run polls like this? Have you no decency and judgement? Does anyone with a military background provide any guidance to you?

This should be the subject of an apology to your readers, particularly the military ones.

I hope the author has the duty of attending the ceremony for the recipient or has the opportunity to meet some current recipents.

The Post needs to take a serious look at this.

Posted by: Falcon21 | July 1, 2010 10:34 AM

You should be ashamed of yourselfs,fire the author of this article

Posted by: johnlingar | July 1, 2010 7:24 PM

Some of you sure are bitching alot. Did you even read the article before yipping? For some rason the Pentagon has been loath to award the Medal to those who may deserve it, but are still living after their action. So they have been awarding a lesser in status medal, or none at all. The article is making you aware of this fact. So, the question is: should the Pentagon do what it's supposed to do, which is award the Medal when called for, living or dead. And, those worried about who served or not, I did: Navy Special Operations and Diving Medical Technician Corpsman 1974-82, including combat. Now, go read the article before spouting off.

Posted by: jckdoors | July 2, 2010 3:49 PM

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