- The Washington Times - Monday, August 3, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Navy christened its newest destroyer, the USS Jason Dunham, on Saturday to honor Cpl. Jason Dunham, who was mortally wounded in Iraq in April 2004. He saved the lives of his squad members by throwing himself on a hand grenade during a hand-to-hand struggle with an insurgent who had been flushed out during a vehicle check. Cpl. Dunham was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2007 for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.

Five Medals of Honor have been awarded for actions during the war on terrorism. In each case, the recipient took extraordinary action to save the lives of his fellow warriors, and in each case, he was killed or mortally wounded in the process. Most Medals of Honor are awarded posthumously: 55 percent in Word War II, two-thirds in Vietnam and 75 percent in the Korean conflict. Not a single Medal of Honor has been awarded to a living recipient for an ongoing conflict since 1973.

The lack of recognition is not caused by a lack of living heroes. Descriptions of actions in recent Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross citations demonstrate that the spirit of valor is alive and well in our fighting forces. Determining which heroic act merits what degree of recognition is highly subjective. It is not a matter of simply checking boxes. In addition, the overall number of medals being awarded has declined sharply. Data published in the Army Times indicate that Service Cross and Medal of Honor awards are down 97 percent compared to the average rates of awards during World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

We do not think medals should be handed out without discretion, but we also think valor should be recognized. The military awards system is plainly broken, and appropriate actions should be taken to find out how to fix it. We hope that soon we will witness the Medal of Honor being presented not to grieving family members, but to a service member selected by a grateful nation to be given that distinction. America is the home of the brave, and our heroes should be able to live to inspire future generations.

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