The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

National Medal of Honor Day: Sacrifices remembered and policies questioned


In 2007, Congress declared March 25 as National Medal of Honor Day. Today is a day of recognition for our nation's greatest heroes, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefields of years past. In honor of this occasion, President Barack Obama paid a special visit to Arlington National Cemetery to pay his respects to our nation's fallen heroes and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Today is a day to celebrate the heroes who walk among us and honor those who died preserving our way of life. However, it also calls into question what appears to be a worrisome trend among Medal of Honor recipients from the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only five brave Americans from this new generation of veterans have joined the ranks of our Medal of Honor recipients, and all awards have been posthumous.

In this week's print editions of Military Times, author Brendan McGarry addressed this very subject, which American Veteran touched on last Friday. McGarry pointed out the apparent disparity among valorous award citations between the Global War on Terrorism and conflicts past. Even though the U.S. has been at war for the better part of a decade, and scores of valorous acts have been acknowledged, why have there been so few Medals of Honor?

McGarry looked at valorous award citations across the board and noted a key policy memo from the Pentagon predating the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, urging temperance in the awards process.

Could this memo reflect a slight shift in policy implying that the standards for combat valor have changed? Something doesn't quite add up.

This issue was originally brought to AMVETS' attention during the Presidential Inauguration Breakfast with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and again during a recent visit with California Congressman, and Marine Corps veteran, Duncan D. Hunter.

During the breakfast, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society expressed concerns that not a single surviving service member had received the Medal of Honor since Vietnam and asked what AMVETS and the veterans' community could do to ensure that the awards process remained equitable.

These concerns were reiterated during our interview with Congressman Hunter, who went as far as to question whether or not the criteria had changed. Look for full details on Hunter's feelings in the upcoming print edition of American Veteran.

The Medal of Honor issue is one that remains important to AMVETS. The organization continues to look into the issue, and American Veteran Online will continue to follow developments.

(Photo: President George W. Bush presents the Medal of Honor to the parents of Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham at the White House in 2007. Dunham earned the award posthumously for jumping on a grenade to save his troops during an insurgent attack in Iraq. DoD photo by Cherie A. Thurlby, released.)

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