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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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
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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 Democrats and Republicans, because party and ideology will be the least of our problems.


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

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


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 3 months convincing you the reason that America is failing is because the GOP want it to fail when in reality they have ZERO to do with the implementation of this stimulus package and even less to do with the operation of government.


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 down to the family’s wishes regardless of what politicians decide.


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 thing have wondered about, in this time when we have so many fractured families and throw away children, what happens to those soldiers whose only family was the ones that fought along side with them? How does the military handle those situations, with the current situation does anyone honor those fallen?

Lastly, it should be the requirement that every Commander in Chief and Secretary of Defense meet the remains of the fallen soldiers and be the wordless honor guards to escort the bodies back to the families residence. No better use of tax payer money.



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 argument that limiting the medal being granted increases its “value” — and, by extension, the other honors granted members of the armed forces – hold any weight in your opinion?

I don’t know if you will read this, or whether the caravan has gone by, but I am curious as to your views given your perspective as a Vet.


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 prospect of Bush pardons, President Bush was actually extremely stingy in giving them out…in comparison to his predecessors.
Much as with the Medal of Honor, the pardons are a highly bureaucratic process (with the exception of the obvious political ones).
So I had wondered about the parallel with the low Medal of Honor count.

Anyhow, as you say, one hopes not.

Thanks again.


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 have full confidence that those who are worthy of such awards will in the end get them. And if they do not then Im reminded of another friend in Vietnam who was shot down twice in the same day only to be told that they were out of helicopters till morning.


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.


Submits award reccomendation that meets the two year submission time limit to Department of the Army Personnel Command
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.
Army Decoration Board – Merit Review, can disprove based on criteria (Cdr, HRC can overrule)
Senior Army Decorations Board – Recommends approval, disapproval, or downgrade.
Concurs or nonconcurs with Board recommendation
Concurs or nonconcurs with Board recommendation
Recommends approval or can disapprove. Also forwards packet to Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff for comment.
Recommends approval or can disapprove.
Approves or disapproves.

I post that because you seem to imply that Bush and company are actively and deceptively “gung-ho” Republicans who have conspired to not award medals of honor. General David BETRAYUS would have had to give his consent. Donald Rumsfeld would have had to give his consent. I submit my proof. Rebut that.


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 proof. You have no proof that it is not this sentiment blocking the awarding of medals.

As to your claim. (I base my analysis upon the fact that Democrats are just as patriotic as are Republicans) Understanding now how they are awarded. If the democrats are so gung ho to prove they are patriotic then Why havent they awarded more medals??


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.


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


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 is not to impugn the integrity or valor of the soldiers nor is it my desire to even suggest that there are not many more deserving of this medal.

I simply pointed out that there is bias. its been proven in the past. Civil war. WW1 and WW2. et al. I rest my case. I will give you the last word.


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 or against us”. . . the decision and use of torture. . . his leaving office with ‘ i never compromised my values’. . . examples could go on and on. .

Judgment based on his religious ideological interpretations were his calling cards. . .there was no evidence for a capacity for layered complex issues such the ones spoken here. . .

I once heard a story from India about the village idiot. . .He was so very distraught because every time he opened his mouth people would start laughing and kicking him about because he was so ignorant. . .He went to the Old Wise One in the community and asked what must i do for people to stop kicking me around and calling me stupid?. . . .The Old Wise One said, “O this is quite simple, every time someone says something find a No for every thing, and people will begin to think you are highly intelligent.” Sure enough within a year the idiot was elected major of the village. I think Bush came into office with a campaign of No. . .and left the office with No. . .

Just my rambling thoughts as i continue to think of this issue on the Metals of Honor. . .