As of this past weekend, the Iraq war surpassed in length the complete involvement of the United States in World War 2. Food for thought.
Earlier this month, just the second Medal of Honor bestowed to a participant in this war was awarded posthumously to Corporal Jason Dunham, of Scio, NY. In April of 2004, Dunham threw his kevlar PASGT helmet on top of a live fragmentation grenade that was dropped by an insurgent he was in direct combat with. He did this to save the lives of his two fellow corpsmen in the vicinity, both of whom survived the blast. Chances are that you never heard about Dunham, however, because he died about the same time as a one Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire.
Dunham died with his parents by his side in Bethesda, MD, after moving through a number of military hospitals and undergoing brain surgery to try to repair the shrapnel damage to his head.
I've had this article pinned to the back of my bedroom door since the day I read it the spring of 2004. The WSJ had their signature dot-matrix caricature of Dunham's picture included with the article, and every day I wake up at home I am reminded of his broad smile, which is no more.
From what I've read, I don't know of anyone more deserving of the MOH. One other one was awarded for services in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and before that 2 were awarded for actions in Mogadishu defending the now infamous Black Hawk (Down). These are the only other MOH's that have been awarded (all posthumously) since the Vietnam war. It is a medal presented exclusively by the POTUS, after either an act of Congress or approval through chain of command.
I do feel that there are probably many more in the armed services who have sacrificed themselves "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States...". That said, I am thankful for the unique example that Cpl. Dunham has provided to the United States - a young, small-town-America kid who extended his stay in Iraq because, as he said, "I want to make sure everyone makes it home alive."
At the opening of the Marine Corps museum in Washington, DC, on what would have been Dunham's 25th birthday this month, President Bush said, "As long as we have Marines like Cpl. Dunham, America will never fear for its liberty."
The problem with that is that the majority of our young men are more concerned with getting the latest video game system then they are about patriotic duty. We simply aren't raising up a nation of men who are willing to lay this kind of sacrifice on the altar of freedom. And we're all to blame for this - supporting politicians who would underfund protection for our soldiers, pay them so little to risk so much, all the while sending their children to Ivy League schools. I shudder to think where we will be 20 years from now at this rate.
If there's a better argument for conscription than Jason Dunham, I've yet to hear of it.
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"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."