By lex, on November 16th, 2010
Writing in the WSJ, William McGurn reminds us of the common narrative connecting all of our most recent Medal of Honor awardees, including that of then-Specialist Salvatore Giunta – exceptional courage to save lives, rather than Hollywood-style efforts to kill the foe:
When we think of military heroism, we may think of Rambos decorated for great damage inflicted on the enemy. In fact, the opposite is true. Every Medal of Honor from these wars has been for an effort to save life. Even more telling, each specifically recognizes bravery that cannot be commanded.
Of the eight who have earned it, three—Army Pfc. Ross McGinniss, Navy Petty Officer Michael Monsoor, Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham—threw themselves on grenades to protect their comrades. Navy Lt. Michael Murphy knowingly exposed himself to enemy fire so he could call in help for his team.
Army Staff Sgt. Jared Monti died trying to rescue a fellow soldier. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller was killed while diverting gunfire from Taliban forces so his team could carry their commander to safety. Army Sgt. First Class Paul Ray Smith—the first from these wars to earn the Medal—took on an overwhelming Iraqi force from a machine gun atop a disabled armored personnel carrier, allowing the safe withdrawal of many wounded American soldiers.
On that ridge in Afghanistan, Salvatore Giunta could not save his sergeant. But he did deprive the enemy of its victory—and death of some of its sting.
It’s clear from SSgt Giunta’s television interviews that he is uncomfortable in the role of hero, and that he doesn’t need the Medal of Honor for himself.
But we need it for him. We need it for us, to affirm to ourselves what it is our soldiers fight for, and the values of the civilization that gave them birth.