I have always been in awe of the incredible acts of valor and selfless sacrifice our military are capable of.

More recently, I have been puzzled—and have questioned—why there have been so few Medals of Honor awarded to our heroes who have continued to “distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty” in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Furthermore, all six Medals of Honor awarded for heroism in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have, sadly, been awarded posthumously.

Yesterday, President Obama presented only the sixth Medal of Honor for valor in Iraq and Afghanistan to Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti—posthumously.

Several possible reasons have been advanced for such dearth of recognition, including:

** Changes in warfare and combat tactics, and technological advances. For example, the suggestion that precision-guided stand-off weapons allow our forces to engage and destroy the enemy with reduced risks to themselves.

** Related to this, the reduction in face-to-face engagements, because the enemy uses tactics such as remotely detonated roadside bombs (IEDs), rockets, mortar and sniper attacks and other unconventional means—like suicide bombers.

** A backlash against the proliferation of medals awarded in other conflicts, including the 1991 Gulf War.

** More stringent criteria and a review process that has become too rigorous, too exacting and too long. For example, during the Clinton administration it took a little over six months to posthumously award Medals of Honor to Army Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Army Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart for heroic action in Somalia. On the other hand, during the Bush administration, the speediest Medal of Honor approval took 18 months and one took as long as three years.

** There are some who claim that the process has become too “politicized,” or even that the military awards system “is broken.”

Subscribing to the latter is former Marine Joseph Kinney, a Vietnam veteran who has advocated for greater recognition of heroism in combat.

According to the Air Force Times, Kinney testified before the House Armed Services Committee in 2006, urging the Pentagon to be more consistent in applying award criteria and to speed the review process for Medal of Honor nominees, and said: “The system has failed because of this inordinate fear that somebody is going to get the Medal of Honor [and] be an embarrassment…They decided that the Medal of Honor should go not only to people who are brave, but pure.”

** Finally, even the possibility of “inadvertent subjective bias amongst commanders.” This has been suggested by Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Calif., a Marine combat veteran who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

Hunter has been aggressively pressing Congress and the Department of Defense to take a close look at the entire Medals of Honor issue, not just the meager number of nominations, but also why the only six Medal of Honor awarded have been to heroes who died during their acts of valor.

Duncan also dismisses many of the arguments that have been advanced to justify both phenomena.

The Congressman has support from the troops on the ground:

In recent letters to Military Times, officers and enlisted members have vented about the fact that so few of the 1.8 million troops who have deployed since 2001 have received the military’s most coveted medal:

“Nobody can honestly tell me that as this war goes into its eighth year, there are only five men deserving Medals of Honor, and all of them died,” wrote Army Master Sgt. Eric Schaffer. “In hundreds of thousands of hours of combat, hundreds of thousands of firefights, battles and actions of all sorts, there have been … only five instances where a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine has demonstrated incredible valor?”

Hopefully things are about to change.

Rep. Hunter has convinced the House Armed Services Committee to order a full review of the criteria used for awarding the Medal of Honor, including why no Medal of Honor has been awarded to a living service member since Vietnam.

Hunter’s call for a review has been approved by the House of Representatives as part of its version of the 2010 defense authorization bill.

It looks like Hunter received some very high level support yesterday, at least on the issue of living Medal of Honor recipients.

According to the Army/Navy Times, on the same day that President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Jared Monti, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said reviews are underway that may result in the nation’s top military honor being presented to a living recipient of the current wars.

When asked at a Pentagon news conference: “Has no one [in the two wars] performed an act of courage worthy of the Medal of Honor and lived through it?” Gates responded “This has been a source of real concern to me…We are looking at this. Without getting into any detail … there are some [award recommendations] in process.”

“It is, as everybody knows, a very time-intensive, thorough process. But I would say that I’ve been told there are some living potential recipients that have been put forward.”

Gates also said “I think it was one of President Bush’s real regrets, that he did not have the opportunity to honor” a living Medal of Honor recipient.

Well, Mr. Gates and the new President now have not only that opportunity, but also the opportunity to recognize more of our troops who have distinguished themselves “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Next, the continuing saga of Medal of Honor nominee Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta.

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
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PATRICK EDABURN, Assistant Editor

An interesting side note.

Arguably, a living Medal of Honor winner would be the only person who President Obama (or any President) would be required to salute. Protocol holds that all military officers regardless of rank are required to salute a MOH winner, even if the winner is a private and he meets the Commander in Chief.


No civilian “has to” salute anyone or anyting ever, no matter what.

The President is indeed the commander and chief whom is a civilian always and forever and always and forever will civilian authority rule over the military.



You are correct. No civilian has to salute anyone.However, Patrick E was correct (sort of) through protocol.Tradition dictates that all, including the President, salute a MoH recipient. The President returns the salutes of the Marines upon disembarking from Marine-1. He does this as tradition dictates, although I know of no President who has refused to comply.The article and Rep.Hunter are correct that the military awards system is broken.The stringent requirements for the MoH are too politicized within the military. Anyone who “distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty” deserves the MoH. It’s almost becoming a “given” that one must first die to receive this award.That simply should not be the case.

To lessen that requirement would not “cheapen” the award.
The only way that would happen is if you see folks receiving a Medal of Honor after having superbly cleaning the latrine. As long as landmarks are given for each award (bronze star, silver star, navy cross, MoH, etc), then there would be a standard by which all receive medals. Currently, there are no such concrete standards. They change with every awards board that convene.


You are incorrect.

Tradition does not “dictate” that any President should salute anyone. The civilian authority gives the MOH decoration not the military. The military is always and forever subservient to the civilian authority and WILL render appropriate respects regardless of any decorations to their civilian superiors.

It used to be considered inappropriate for anyone not in uniform to salute in any manor other than hand over heart. Actually it was considered rather stupid looking for someone in civilian clothes to salute to the eyebrow like uniformed people do.

The is no law and there is nothing in any military protocol that requires any civilian to render any respect to the military in any form and there never will be in a free country. The military simply has no authority over civilians unless temporarily given that authority by their civilian governmental superiors.


I don’t know if I agree with the premise of this article. If too many medals are given out, it cheapens them and so much has been cheapened.Used to be silver stars were very unusual up until Vietnam. Don’t forget that 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam which wasn’t even close to the 400,000 that died in WWII. Yet. as I recall, twice as many silver stars were handed out in vietnam.The Navy was (and I got out in ~1990) pretty darn stingy with medals and ribbons, not to mention promotions. Not like the Air Force that gave out a ribbon for finishing Basic Training. A vietnam vet I knew said that the Army gave out medals because they weren’t allowed to increase pay. Now, apparently, in the Army, to be an E-3 is to be unusual, where that used to be the most common rank. So now they can promote rather than hand out medals like popcorn.
We have other medals for valor. Bronze Stars with clusters, for example but if they hand those out easily then we get “medal inflation.”
I met a silver star “winner” once. We were at the uniform shop buying ribbons. I saw the ones he needed to replace and said to him, “What the heck is that one? Some sort of Army ribbon?” it was not unusual for people to cross over at the time and it didn’t look like any ribbon I had ever seen. He said no, it was the Silver Star, “And it wasn’t worth it.”I’ll leave it to DLS or other right wingers here to decide if I had a come-back to that.


“Currently, there are no such concrete standards.”

And probably shouldn’t be. Unless you were there when the bullets were flying, you really don’t know and neither does any board. So better to give them some leeway and let the board decide rather than “Received 9 bullet wounds” when 10 was needed for the next one up.


That’s not what I meant. I didn’t say that.

“distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty”
There’s your concrete standard right there.

The point: Most boards inappropriately add a silent, “and dying in the process” to their definition above.

And to Father Time:
Tradition does INDEED dictate that very thing. Not law, but tradition.
That’s why I included the example of Presidents saluting upon leaving Air Force 1 or Marine 1.


‘”distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty”

There’s your concrete standard right there.’

You call that concrete? I would say that just about anyone that doesn’t turn and run when the bullets start flying distinguishes themselves conspicuously. Conspicuous, because they are still there rather than doing the intelligent thing like running and hiding.


That’s as concrete as you need, so a board can thoroughly and readily render the honor, instead of dragging it out years. First you said you didn’t want “9 versus 10 bullets required”, now you say it’s too vague. ???

As far as conspicuous duty, dodging a bullet and sticking around when they do, does not qualify.

“doing the intelligent thing like running and hiding”…
You must have been in the French military.

It’s their JOB to put themselves in harms way. Our warriors freely choose to do so. God bless them for it.
That is conspicuous by civilian terms, but just another day at the office for those in the military.


‘”doing the intelligent thing like running and hiding”…
You must have been in the French military.

It’s their JOB to put themselves in harms way. Our warriors freely choose to do so. God bless them for it.
That is conspicuous by civilian terms, but just another day at the office for those in the military.’

uh, huh. I see. Tell me, how many have you dodged?

There is a darned good reason that officers in the civil war lead from the rear and carried side arms. They were there to shoot the deserters when they tried to run away.
Caught between getting shot either way they went, most soldiers went forward rather than back since the man in the back was closer.

Need I mention again what the Silver Star “winner” told me? From the mouth of a hero, no less. Did I mention he was walking with a gimp? Probably not because it wasn’t germain.


–[Tradition does INDEED dictate]–

Post a reference.

You have none. There is none.


Have you ever watched a President disembark from a plane or helicopter?
Have you ever watched a President leave the Whitehouse and approach a podium?

I would presume, “yes” on all counts.

Since you have seen those events (countless times), you undoubtedly saw many of them salute the Marine serving as his guard after the Marine salutes him.
It happens all the time. Thus, making it TRADITION.

There is no writing code that says to do it, thus making it tradition.

“where’s my references”? Come on. Just watch TV. There it is in your face almost daily.


Very poor reference JD. In fact, not a reference at all, just your assumption based on what you saw on TV. Maybe I am older than you, but I remember back to Eisenhower. The last few presidents have decided to salute for public reasons, not “tradition”. There is NO such tradition or there would be a written reference. There is no reference and no president must salute, by any reference, an MOH award holder. You do realize what the first three letters of “assume” spells do you not? Much wiser to be an “unassuming” person. Before Reagan, presidents did the hand over heart thing and really didn’t return salutes to their honor guards.

Republican talk radio grabbed onto this “sir” business a decade or so ago. Now all these neocons salute each other and call each other “sir” out of some political self identification persona.. Much like black people used to “dap”. It’s a fad and like all fads, they die away.

If the point of your posts are to show respect for the military and people in military uniform, then just say it.

I will say it: I respect the military. I respect those that serve in the military and I am thankful for those that have sacrificed for our nation, military or not. It doesn’t require a change of life style to show respect and it absolutely does NOT require a Republican voter registration card.


As a civilian, I would feel rather awkward saluting anyone. Them days are gone.In fact, I rather like smiling and greeting a General or an Admiral if I pass one on the sidewalk, rather than cowering in fear that I would commit some slight that would get me into trouble.My retired dad plays golf with these types. They get to bragging and then they ask him how far he got. “Seaman Second Class” shuts them up pretty quick as he sinks his birdy putt, but he saw “action” and they didn’t, so you figure it out.


Well I don’t salute anybody. I don’t call anybody “sir” either. If people call me “sir”, I assume it is because I am older, which I accept. If someone in uniform calls me “sir”, I assume it is because I am a civilian and I accept it, but then I introduce myself and ask them to call me by my name from that point on. If they continue to call me “sir” after I have introduced myself, I consider it intentionally offensive and end my business with whomever it may be.

I served four years honorably, but there is no way in hell I will ever call a military officer “sir” again. Nor anyone I don’t wish too for that matter. That is exactly the freedom I fought for and that is exactly the freedom our forefathers fought for. I consider it patriotic.


“I served four years honorably, but there is no way in hell I will ever call a military officer “sir” again. Nor anyone I don’t wish too for that matter. That is exactly the freedom I fought for and that is exactly the freedom our forefathers fought for. I consider it patriotic.’

What he said. I’m a proud to be a civilian.


“I’ve been in THREE wars, sweetheart.”That’s swell. Then you, of all people, ought to know that there isn’t anything concrete when it comes to the military. So why you want to insist there is, is beyond me.Me, I served in peace time. Nobody shot at me and I didn’t shoot at anybody. I’m not ashamed of it, but I also don’t salute anyone anymore. If you want to salute people, be my guest.

If you want to complain that I was pompus, then fine. But to say that it is someone’s job to get shot at is rather pompous as well. Nobody deserves that “job.”


Thanks for your “swell” nod of approval.

1. Honor, courage, and commitment are concrete for most int he military. With everything else, you improvise.
2. I’d never look down upon anyone who serves – in peacetime or in war. Thank you for your service.
3. I don’t salute people either. However, I do salute at the National Anthem now that Congress made it so.
4. “and how many have you dodged?” is the epitimy of pompus. Sorry.
5. It’s not a warriors job to get shot. It’s their job to kill the enemy while abiding by the law of armed conflict and the code of conduct.

I don’t typically advertise my service as I did. Just hit a nerve.


Since I “did my time” during peace time, and because I was 27 and had 12 years of full-time work experience behind me when I enlisted, I thought I would adjust rather quickly back to civilian life.I was wrong. It took quite a while before I adjusted fully to civilian life. More than 10 years, i think. It will take some time, but you will adjust, too. I know that sounds pompous and arrogant, but it isn’t meant to be. I carried a rather large chip on my shoulder for a long time which has only recently gone away.

I wasn’t asking for anyone to give me a break when i got out, but I didn’t think it was right that they should give me a hard time about it either. And before 9/11? They sure did. I think they made sport of it.


Also, in a different post, you mentioned that young people sign up so they can get a college degree and you asked “Does that mean they are dying for a college education?”The answer to that question is yes and let me tell you how wrong-headed this is:My mother graduated with a Regent’s Diploma in New York State in 1942. She had more education by the 12th grade than people that graduate from southern universities with Bachelors degrees get today. She didn’t have to pay for it and she didn’t have to enlist to get that education. When she began studying for her BS, she didn’t take English, or Math or Sociology classes, the things called basic studies” because she had been educated in those things before she got there. Rather, from day one, she took classes in her major area and continued to do so for 4 years. Now, they require 5 years of study (a five year 4 year degree) to do what she did in 3 plus then she learned what they now teach for a masters degree.We are being cheated. Worse, they actually charge cash money for what used to be provided for free.

When I went to college, they had remedial classes for the kids that couldn’t read. Same in boot camp.

So yes, the poor kids are dying for an education and if they survive, they might get what resembles one. Heaven help us.


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