1862 – Congress creates the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award.
In the 140+ years that the medal has existed, it has been awarded 3,464 times, with 19 recipients receiving the decoration twice. The Medal of Honor has been awarded in every major military conflict in which the US has been involved, starting with the Civil War in 1862 and continuing through the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 and up to and including both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. There has been only recepient of the award from the fighting in Afghanistan, and four from the fighting in Iraq. Here is LT Michael Murphy’s, USN citation of the Medal of Honor:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and above and beyond the call of duty as the leader of a special reconnaissance element with Naval Special Warfare task unit Afghanistan on 27 and 28 June 2005. While leading a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, Lieutenant Murphy demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Konar Province, Afghanistan. On 28 June 2005, operating in an extremely rugged enemy-controlled area, Lieutenant Murphy’s team was discovered by anti-coalition militia sympathizers, who revealed their position to Taliban fighters. As a result, between 30 and 40 enemy fighters besieged his four member team. Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force. The ensuing fierce firefight resulted in numerous enemy casualties, as well as the wounding of all four members of the team. Ignoring his own wounds and demonstrating exceptional composure, Lieutenant Murphy continued to lead and encourage his men. When the primary communicator fell mortally wounded, Lieutenant Murphy repeatedly attempted to call for assistance for his beleaguered teammates. Realizing the impossibility of communicating in the extreme terrain, and in the face of almost certain death, he fought his way into open terrain to gain a better position to transmit a call. This deliberate, heroic act deprived him of cover, exposing him to direct enemy fire. Finally achieving contact with his headquarters, Lieutenant Murphy maintained his exposed position while he provided his location and requested immediate support for his team. In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom. By his selfless leadership, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Never forgot that many of the servicemen who have been awarded this medal performed their acts at the cost of their own lives – if you live in the Indy/Metro area, take some time this week and stop by our Medal of Honor memorial, and pay your respects to some of the greatest men to ever serve this nation.
A good friend of my parents, from their hang gliding days, was awarded the Medal of Honor from his service in Vietnam. We’d have never known if I hadn’t stumbled across a picture he had related to it while helping him move. I was young enough at the time that I didn’t even know what it was.
The funny thing is that it wasn’t that hard to get him to talk about his experiences in Vietnam when I was older, including the events leading to being awarded the Medal of Honor. But he would never even hint that he received any kind of recognition for it. It was very obvious that, in his eyes, he just did what was necessary to save as many people as possible with the fewest casualties, and getting help for himself didn’t fit into that equation.
I think the time I spent talking with him about that will be one of the most memorable events of my life. Because it was the first time I really understood the difference between a real hero, and the caricature I had been spoon-fed before that by novels, tv, and the movies.
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