Monday, March 25, 2013

National Medal of Honor Day

val•or [val-er]  noun
boldness or determination in facing great danger,
especially in battle; heroic courage; bravery: a medal for valor.

Original Navy Medal of Honor (1862)

There is a hierarchy of medals that can be awarded for valor.  At the peak is the National Medal of Honor.  For it to be awarded, the heroic action of the recipient must not only be notable but also “above and beyond the call of duty”.
Dragoon Mts were Cochise hid
Army Assistant Surgeon Bernard J D Irwin was the recipient of the first Medal of Honor issued for a heroic act* after he rescued 60 soldiers of an Army unit at Apache Pass in Arizona.  The infantrymen were trapped by Chiricahua Apaches under Cochise in February of 1861.  Irwin had volunteered to take command of troops and under harsh circumstances (including being attacked and defeating hostile Indians) he recovered stolen horses and cattle, reached the trapped column and helped break the siege to save the soldiers.
            * Other medals were issued prior to this one for distinguishing acts,
             but this was the first for an act of heroism.
 Read about another Medal of Honor recipient, Sgt 1st Class Paul R. Smith, of Tampa, FL in an article by Deborah Sharp in USA Today.  Here are some paraphrased excerpts:
            During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Paul’s platoon was attacked
 by an overwhelming amount of enemy forces near the Baghdad airport.
  At great personal risk, Paul threw a grenade over a wall
 then jumped atop an armored vehicle and manned a
machine gun.  He was able to fire over 300 rounds, spraying
the attacking troops, stopping their forward progress.
  His actions saved at least 100 men before he was killed by enemy fire.

            Paul’s family was presented with his Medal of Honor
 at a White House ceremony.  Paul was cited for “…conspicuous gallantry …”
 that protected not only his troops, but also those at a nearby aid station.

To learn more about the history of the National Medal of Honor and see the various designs issued over the years by different branches of service, see this link to the National Medal of Honor Museum  of Military History in Chattanooga, TN:

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section of this site is particularly interesting.  Check it out at:

“This nation will remain the land of the free only
 so long as it is the home of the brave. “

Elmer Davis – News reporter, author,
director of US Ofc of War Information in WWII

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