89 of 300 Million


89 is the number of living recipients of the Medal of Honor. With them crawling out of the woodwork like that it’s easy to see how Resident Obama got confused.

I’ve been privileged to have met some surviving Medal of Honor winners. The first was in 1988, he was my Brigade Command Sergeant Major. The man was already a legend among the privates of the Brigade, he wore a different combat patch every day. For the unfamiliar, a combat patch is worn on the right shoulder of the US Army Uniform, denoting “Combat Service” with that unit. While Vietnam Vets were common in the Army of 1988, someone with that amount of experience was not. As I remember he wore The Big Red One, The First Cavalry, The Screaming Eagles, a Ranger Company Scroll , and others. Everyone who saw the man on a regular basis knew he’d been there, and back. Then one morning, after a grueling week of training all day and preparing for an inspection all night, he stepped up in front of me. I was wearing my “Class A Uniform” with all ONE of my, thus far, earned ribbons and my “Tropic Lightning” patch proudly displayed (on my left shoulder), when the Brigade CSM did his in ranks inspection. All I remember is standing at a rigid position of attention when suddenly a figure stepped in front of me and executed a crisp left face. All I saw, from that point on, was a tiny blue ribbon, almost hidden under the epaulets on his uniform shoulder, a tiny blue ribbon with 5 white stars across it. My mouth dried up and my stomach and sphincter clenched, thereby cutting off all blood flow to my brain (this is a common occurrence among privates). He asked to see my belt buckle then chewed my ass because I hadn’t polished the back of the damned thing. I was too struck with stupidity to even mumble a response, not that one would have mattered. By the time he moved off down the rank I was a quivering wreck.

He wasn’t the last Medal of Honor winner I would meet throughout my career. Another discovered me “borrowing” diesel fuel from a group of Japanese Ground Defense Force Soldiers, and then stood guard with my Corporal while I finished using my Arkansas Credit Card and helped us refill and relight our Yukon stove to keep us from freezing to death in the mountains of Japan. Another introduced himself to me at an AUSA Convention in DC a few years later. He didn’t mention the medal hanging around his neck or his status as a retired LTG, but then, he didn’t really care about his status, he just wanted to shake my Soldiers’ hands and thank them for the job they were doing. Another grilled a foolish Second Lieutenant about who would salute who and when they would do it while I stood by and sniggered on the way to the mess hall. Another, Colonel Millett, ate lunch with me and pinned my Expert Infantryman’s Badge upon my chest.

I have been very fortunate; I spent the majority of my adult life in the company of the finest human beings ever to walk upon the face of the earth, whether they had one medal or a dozen. But even amongst these fine men, those who have earned a Medal of Honor stand out. I know what King Henry V and Sir William Shakespeare meant when he said

gentlemen in England now-a-bed

Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

89 out of 300 million, is it that hard to recognize greatness when you are in its company?

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Retired Paratrooper, Biker, Tattoo Artist

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June 29, 2011 8:37 pm

Wonderful nessa. Not my experience, but my dad, a draftee corporal in the Signal Corps stationed at Fort (back then Camp) Polk in Louisiana during the Korean War, likes to tell the story of when Audie Murphy walked in one day to send a telegram . After taking care of his duties, Dad got to shake his hand. Audie Murphy was not a big man, nor did he have a booming voice, but as my dad tells it you can be sure he was recognized on sight – and not just because he was at the time a field grade… Read more »

June 29, 2011 9:05 pm

nessa, I’ve met one, a few weeks back actually. I work with the public, and we have all sorts of people come into our place of business. During the past 6 months in particular, any time I see a guest come in wearing a hat that indicates that they have served in the military, I make it a point to talk to them and let them know how much it means to me. One gentleman and his wife came in. This gentleman was elderly in years, had an amputation below the knee and was in a wheelchair, but he was… Read more »

Queen Hotchibobo
June 30, 2011 1:23 am

Great post, Nessa. Our Toker-in-Chief isn’t fit wash the underwear of our Medal of Honor recipients. It is terrible that he was ever put in a position of command over the military when his contempt for them, their honor, and their sacrifice is so deep and wide.

What a disgusting state of affairs.

June 30, 2011 9:34 am

Unfortunately I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting a MOH honoree. Other highly decorated vets seem both pleased and humbled when I thank them for their service. Our veterans have earned the very best we as individuals, and as a nation, can offer them. In complete contrast to the ruling class, who act entitled to our praise, even when it’s not forthcoming or deserved.

June 30, 2011 3:13 pm

To be among great men even for a moment, Nessa, yep, that’s worth getting out of bed in the morning. And those few are the best of the best.

Cheap manhoods are in bunches these days, too.

June 30, 2011 4:48 pm

The humility of these guys never ceases to amaze me. Was at the gas station on Memorial Day and right behind me was a guy in his camo’s and boots. So I held the door open for him and as he walked by I thanked him for his service and sacrifice. To which he replied “My privilege”. After I got my coffee and donut and went up to pay, he ends up behind me with a couple of sodas and bags of chips so I just looked at the cashier and said “I’ve got his, too.” He looked at me… Read more »