American troops have been fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than four years, but just one soldier from those wars has received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor for bravery.Here's a question for you: Do any of you know who won the Medal of Honor in Iraq?
The lack of such medals - by comparison, two were awarded for fighting in Somalia - reflects today's unconventional warfare and the superior weaponry of U.S. forces, military experts say. It's not that today's troops lack valor, but they lack opportunities to display it in the extraordinary way that would merit the Medal of Honor.
Anyone? There's only one name to remember...Anyone?
Didn't think so. You haven't heard his name much:
The most recent act to merit the Medal of Honor came on April 4, 2003. On that day, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith, his position near the Baghdad airport nearly overrun, hastily organized a defense.Sgt. Smith was killed at his gun that day. You can learn more about Sgt. Smith at the St. Petersburg Times, or at the Army's official site.
Under fire, Smith climbed onto a damaged armored vehicle and attacked the enemy with a .50-caliber machine gun. He killed as many as 50 enemy soldiers and helped save the lives of 100 Americans.
Of course, no one remebers the names of the two killed in Somalia, either:
Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart received the award posthumously. They protected critically wounded comrades whose helicopter had crashed in hostile territory in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Oct. 3, 1993. Their heroism was depicted in the movie Black Hawk Down.If you remember the movie - they were the two snipers who were in the fire support helicopter. When the second Black Hawk crashed, they went to its aid - two men, alone, with only a limited supply of ammunition. I don't know why we don't hear their names more often.
And there are acts of heroism recognized: In addition to Smith's Medal of Honor, the second top honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, has been awarded twice to soldiers fighting in Iraq. Next is the Silver Star; 174 have been issued, according to the Army. In Afghanistan, there has been one Distinguished Service Cross and 37 Silver Stars. The Navy has awarded three Navy Crosses and 30 Silver Stars since Sept. 11, 2001.
Sargent York and Audie Murphy were household names; our current heroes are lucky to get two minutes on their hometown newscast. Such is the homefront in this strange war in which we find ourselves.
[Crossposted to the Wasatch Front.]