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Volumes have been written about past administrations’ decisions not to let the American people see images of the flag-draped coffins, our fallen heroes, arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware—the first contact with U.S. soil since leaving foreign battlefields, including the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I will neither condemn nor condone the reported reasons for such a decision. Reasons that have reportedly ranged from respect and concern for the family’s grief and privacy, to alleged attempts by the Bush administration to hide the real tragedy and cost of the war from the American public, lest opposition to the war increase even more.

In an informative article today, “Fallen Soldiers, Coming Home,” the New York Times discusses the background, allegations, issues and “implications” involved with such a ban on photographing the flag-draped coffins.

The Times also reports:

Just last week, President Obama was asked at a news conference if he would allow coverage of the flag-draped coffins arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware “so the American people can see the full human cost of war.”

Mr. Obama surprised many when he replied that he was “in the process of reviewing those policies.” But he did not tip his hand. “I don’t want to give you an answer now before I’ve evaluated that review and understand all the implications involved,” he said.

Talking about implications, The Times notes:

Moreover, no one knows what will happen in Iraq or Afghanistan, or on some other battlefield. At some point, Mr. Obama himself will be held accountable for the coffins coming home, and he may find that it is not in his interest, any more than it was in his predecessors’, for Americans to have these visual reminders of the death toll.

Mr. President, the American people understand that you may have to send more of our brave troops to Afghanistan and elsewhere, and that, tragically, some of them may return in flag-draped coffins through Dover Air Force Base.

But, if your promises about change, transparency, and leveling with the American people are sincere, you must let the American people honor its fallen heroes when they first reach American soil. This can and should be done consistent with every respect and due considerations for the hardship, grief, privacy, etc. of the surviving family members, and regardless of future political considerations.

To do otherwise, would make your administration, in this respect, not any different than previous ones.

And, Mr. Obama, while you are reviewing this policy, please also consider the following:

After nearly seven years of combat in Afghanistan and in Iraq, the previous administration saw fit to award only five Medals of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for valor, to our Iraq and Afghanistan heroes.

In contrast, there were 245 Medals of Honor recipients during the Vietnam War, and 27 Medals of Honor were awarded for the single World War II battle of Iwo Jima.

There may be some more Medals of Honor “in the pipeline,” but here is a unique opportunity for you, our new President, to recognize the magnificent acts of heroism that surely have been performed by many more than just five of our brave troops.

Mr. President, please honor our heroes, for their acts of valor and as they return home for the last time.

Photos: U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Army

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
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JSpencer
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JSpencer
7 years 7 months ago
Agreed. This administration must adhere to the principles that were ignored and/or trampled in the previous one or it’s credibility will suffer accordingly. Our service people deserve this respect, and the American people have the right to expect transparency in their govt. I’m certainly willing to withhold judgement longer than the first few weeks but at some point we will see just how much this new president has departed from the sins of the last. If the reality even comes close to matching the rhetoric, then we will be well served. If it doesn’t, then we’d all better forget about… Read more »
greenschemes
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greenschemes
7 years 7 months ago

Mr. Obama surprised many when he replied that he was “in the process of reviewing those policies.” But he did not tip his hand. “I don’t want to give you an answer now before I’ve evaluated that review and understand all the implications involved,” he said.

Translation. He must clear it with Moveon.org.

Make no mistake. Obama is not a moderate. He is a far left liberal who is trying a centrist approach.

greenschemes
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greenschemes
7 years 7 months ago
I must admit while I have agreed to give the president his 100 days this president is beginning to look more and more like Jimmy Carter on a daily basis. Secondly his press conferences are nothing more then snicker sessions where he makes fun of anyone who questions his decisions and uses sarcasm to deal with his critics. While cute. This will only go so far before it begins wearing on the people. The people want answers and action. He has acted. His party has put forth a debacle of a bill. Now he is going to spend the next… Read more »
$199537
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$199537
7 years 7 months ago
I grew up in a military family and was in the military myself for a while. I really have mixed feelings on this. I recognize that the public should see some of the negative sides of war – it’s only in that way that good decisions about war can be made in the future. On the other hand these pictures will surely be used as propaganda. I wouldn’t want to see the coffin of my father, myself, or my son to be displayed in the media or on websites serving as material for comments, jokes, F-bombs, etc. It should come… Read more »
DdW
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DdW
7 years 7 months ago
DG: Of course, the final decision on each individual returning hero “should come down to the family’s wishes regardless of what politicians decide.” That’s a given and that’s what I meant by: “This can and should be done consistent with every respect and due considerations for the hardship, grief, privacy, etc. of the surviving family members, and regardless of future political considerations.” Not only should the families be notified that their hero is coming home on a certain day, at a specific time (and this does not have to be in the middle of the night, as the practice has… Read more »
river
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river
7 years 7 months ago
Dorian i agree fully on this one. . . The ones that have seen war will never stop seeing it. The ones that have lost loved ones will never stop knowing that loss. We the people, elect people that make the decisions for war, we need to see the war with all of its losses and sacrifice of life and limb. It is about their honor and our responsibility. I agree about the families, i would hope if a plan and action can be implemented for massive war, then a plan for honoring the fallen should be high priority. Another… Read more »
DdW
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DdW
7 years 7 months ago

Thanks, river.

I have not seen the movie, “Taking Chance,” but apparently it’s about a Marine Lt. Col. escorting home the body of a fellow Marine killed in Iraq.

Althought this particular hero does have parents back home, a similar honor escort back home should be arranged for every fallen hero who may not have immediate family to meet him, or her.

Dorian

Marlowecan
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Marlowecan
7 years 7 months ago
Dorian… You have blogged a number of times on the Medal of Honor issue…something which has gone under the radar, and probably will continue to do so. (I have often puzzled at how politicians will publicly honor military service, while slighting (i.e., shoddy health care) those who have served. Thus, I think this is a symbolically very important issue. ) Whenever I have read your posts I have wondered each time about the following points, and am finally asking: (1) Why do you think this is? Is it institutional . . . or an administration (political/ideological) issue? (2) Does the… Read more »
DdW
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DdW
7 years 7 months ago
Marlowecan: These are good questions. Although I am familiar with military awards and decorations, I am not an expert in the area, so please consider these first-blush comments, until I do additional research. But, basically, the Medal of Honor, is our country’s highest military decoration awarded for–as the award citation reads—for “[Conspicuous] gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against any enemy of the United States…. And, yes, being such a high honor and to maintain its “value,” as you say, it should be bestowed only… Read more »
Marlowecan
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Marlowecan
7 years 7 months ago
Thank you, Dorian. Your response was quite fascinating…especially the theory about “type of warfare” influencing Medal of Honor awards. The Medal of Honor issue has been one of those “brain worms” that has been niggling at the back of my head from the first time you noted it here at TMV. Whenever I would read about Medal of Honor awards…for example, in Mogadishu back in the 90s…I would be reminded of it. As for your last point — “Political/ideological, I hope not.” — to be honest, I had wondered. For example, while many on the Left made hay about the… Read more »
DdW
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DdW
7 years 7 months ago

Now, there is a “phenomenom” that really caught me by surprise. I had expected Bush to issue scores of pardons, and even blanket pardons, to his cronies, sorry, to members of his staff and administration—still “employed” or not. But he didn’t. I have my own theories, but I would love for someone with much more insight, authority and talent to investigate this fascinating event.

Back to the Medal of Honor, it is just my theory. When I come across a more plausible or valide explanation, and/or some facts, I’ll share.

greenschemes
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greenschemes
7 years 7 months ago
I think that medals of honor usually work themselves thru the pipeline and take a number of years to be completed. A friend of mine was with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam in 1969 and was finally nominated for the Medal of Honor in 2000. 31 years later. I feel that most likely the resultant lack of Medals being awarded to our soldiers for their acts of bravery in Iraq/Afghanistan is more the result of the intense anitwar fever in this country then it is in the lack of heroic deeds being done on the battlefields. As a result I… Read more »
DdW
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DdW
7 years 7 months ago
GS: I have to respectfully, but strongly, disagree with you on your comment that “I feel that most likely the resultant lack of Medals being awarded to our soldiers for their acts of bravery in Iraq/Afghanistan is more the result of the intense anitwar fever in this country then it is in the lack of heroic deeds being done on the battlefields.” While the majority of Americans did, and do oppose the war in Iraq, there is absolutely no basis for your implied claim that such opposition would “rub of” on denying our heroes their so richly deserved recognitions. On… Read more »
greenschemes
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greenschemes
7 years 7 months ago

There are two distinct protocols for awarding the Medal of Honor. The first and most common is nomination by a service member in the chain of command, followed by approval at each level of command. The other method is nomination by a member of Congress (generally at the request of a constituent) and approval by a special act of Congress. In either case, the Medal of Honor is presented by the President on behalf of the Congress.

You don’t even understand how the medals are awarded.

greenschemes
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greenschemes
7 years 7 months ago
* CHAIN OF COMMAND Submits award reccomendation that meets the two year submission time limit to Department of the Army Personnel Command * MEMBER OF CONGRESS Submits award recommendation that is outside the two year limit for submission to Department of the Army Personnel Command or the Secretary of the Army who forwards request to Personnel Command. * DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY PERSONNEL COMMAND Army Decoration Board – Merit Review, can disprove based on criteria (Cdr, HRC can overrule) Senior Army Decorations Board – Recommends approval, disapproval, or downgrade. * MANPOWER AND RESERVE AFFAIRS Concurs or nonconcurs with Board recommendation… Read more »
DdW
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DdW
7 years 7 months ago

GDS

I again ask you to back up your claim:

“I feel that most likely the resultant lack of Medals being awarded to our soldiers for their acts of bravery in Iraq/Afghanistan is more the result of the intense anitwar fever in this country then it is in the lack of heroic deeds being done on the battlefields”

That comment is what started this debate, not the “protocols” for awarding the Medal of Honor, which I can just as easily look up in Wikipedia and elsewhere…

greenschemes
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greenschemes
7 years 7 months ago
Well if you understand the protocols then you also understand that congress can award medals of honor. It does not matter whose in charge. You dont have to be the majority to submit the medal recomendation. So again your assumption is that its the Republicans who are blocking this and my assumption is that its both parties blocking it. However you have chosen to read into my reply that its the democrats when in fact its both. If congress can award these medals then why havent they? I submit its because of the antiwar sentiment. Just as I have no… Read more »
greenschemes
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greenschemes
7 years 7 months ago

While the majority of Americans did, and do oppose the war in Iraq, there is absolutely no basis for your implied claim that such opposition would “rub of” on denying our heroes their so richly deserved recognitions.

Here you are wrong again.

Proof.

A 1993 study commissioned by the Army described systematic racial and religious discrimination in the criteria for awarding medals during World War II.

greenschemes
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greenschemes
7 years 7 months ago
I find much of what you originally posted as flawed. But Im glad you continue to advocate for our troops. I am a Vietnam vet who was actually in combat. I understand. Any continuation of this will be an attempt by either of us to paint the other as a cowardly “gung ho Republican” and I never intended that. I only wished to point out that from my perspective that the process is inhibited because of bias. Just as their was racial bias proved I feel that political bias has contributed to the lack of medals at this time. That… Read more »
DdW
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DdW
7 years 7 months ago

GS says:

“Proof.

A 1993 study commissioned by the Army described systematic racial and religious discrimination in the criteria for awarding medals during World War II.”

Wow! That certainly proves that there is “systematic racial and religious discrimination in the criteria for awarding medals” in 2009 during the Iraq/Afghanistan wars…

river
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river
7 years 7 months ago
I have come back to this post for found myself continuing to think about Marlowecan’s question? Is it institutional . . . or an administration (political/ideological) issue? Your points are grounded and insightful. . . I do not truly understand the process of awarding metals. . .but found my own suspicion of President Bush and his dynamics leaving questions??? I was not surprised Bush did not pardon many people. While a Gov. of Texas, he showed himself to be rigid, HARD, and unbending on issues considering executions. . . the 911 “dead or alive” and “you are either with us… Read more »
DdW
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DdW
7 years 7 months ago
river: Just one final thougt, and I think I’ll go on to greener pastures: There have been some comments ascribing the few number of Medals of Honor to the “protocols”, the process, etc. to award the Medal. Having been in the military and having myself recommended personnel for various awards and decorations (of course none as valued as the Medal of Honor), I don’t have to be told how bureaucratic and time-cousuming the process is–especially for the highest military award in our nation. But here is my thought, valid or not: A commander-in-chief who has ther power to command his… Read more »
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