Memorial Day 2010: Time to Recognize Valor
As retired military, I naturally like to write about military and national security subjects.
Two subjects, or issues, that I have written about–probably ad nauseam—are the dearth of Medals of Honor that have been awarded to our heroes of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the continuing refusal by the Pentagon to reconsider its decision not to award the Medal of Honor to Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta.
On the first issue, only six medals of Honor have been awarded for acts of heroism and valor in Iraq and Afghanistan—all posthumously.
Already back in 2006, I wrote in a letter in the Air Force Times, in part:
After five years of combat in the Afghanistan-Iraq Theater, it is baffling that only two Medals of Honor have been awarded our war heroes. In contrast, there were 245 Medal of Honor recipients during the Vietnam War, and 27 Medals of Honor were awarded for the single World War II battle of Iwo Jima.
It is deplorable that in a war on terrorism touted by our president as being for such a noble cause, we are so remiss in honoring what surely must be numerous instances of “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life,” as the citation for the Medal of honor reads….Let‘s hope that the recent changes in Congress and at the defense department will result in better, more frequent and timely recognition of our heroes.”
The Bush administration saw fit to award three more Medals of Honor and in September 2009, President Obama presented the sixth Medal of Honor for valor in the Iraq-Afghanistan wars to Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti—again posthumously.
The rationale for such a measly number of Medals of Honor for our Iraq-Afghanistan heroes encompasses the whole gamut of reasons and excuses.
In “The Medal of Honor: Too Few and Too Late?” I listed some of those reasons.
As to Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, whom I honor in my Memorial Day post, much has been written about him, too.
Briefly, as I wrote in “Stolen Valor at the Highest Levels: The Case of Sgt. Rafael Peralta,” Sgt. Peralta, a Mexican immigrant who became a U.S. citizen while in the Marine Corps deployed to Iraq in 2004 where, at the young age of 25, he unselfishly and heroically gave his life for his newly adopted country by falling on an enemy grenade in Fallujah, absorbing the brunt of the blast and most likely saving the lives of six of his Marine buddies.
For his “undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty,” Sergeant Peralta was nominated for the Medal of Honor by the Commandant of the Marine Corps and by the Secretary of the Navy.
Regrettably, the Defense Department denied the award. Instead, Peralta would be receiving the Navy Cross, an award his mother, Rosa Peralta, has steadfastly refused to accept on Rafael Peralta’s behalf.
Again, volumes have been written on this case and, in particular, on the reasons the Pentagon gives for its refusal to award the Medal of Honor.
In a timely article this Memorial Day weekend in the New York Times, regular contributor Katherine Zoepf, who has been closely following both stories, combines the two topics into a superb and comprehensive column, “What Happened to Valor?”
After telling us about young Rafael Peralta, his family, how Peralta served and died and how long his mother has patiently waited for her son to receive the Medal of Honor, Zoepf describes the reaction of Sgt. Peralta’s mother when it was determined that her son would not receive the Medal:
Rosa Peralta was stunned. Her family had received thousands of letters expressing admiration for her son’s already-famous heroism. When Marine officials asked her how she would like to have his Navy Cross presented, she declined it. “I said no,” she told me. “I can’t take that medal now.” In the year and a half since, Peralta has continued to refuse to accept the Navy Cross on Rafael’s behalf, a decision that has placed her in the thick of a growing controversy over how — and how often — Medals of Honor are being awarded.
Please click here to read one of the best descriptions of this “growing controversy” I have seen.
Some additional references to these subjects:
And this excellent one: