Tag: Medal of Honor

Captain Swenson


The former Army captain who received the Medal of Honor on Tuesday has asked to return to active duty in the Army, a rare move by an officer who has lived to wear the military’s highest award.

Two U.S. officials tell The Associated Press that William D. Swenson has submitted a formal request to the Army and officials are working with him to allow his return.

Swenson was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama in the White House Tuesday afternoon for risking his life to recover bodies and save fellow troops during a lengthy battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border in 2009.

The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the request until a decision was made.

Swenson, 34, left the military in February 2011 as a captain, but he could rise to the rank of major once he rejoins. In order to successfully re-up, Swenson will have to pass a physical, a drug test and other routine reviews. But officials Tuesday were optimistic it would all fall into place.

Here is a short video that includes raw footage of Swenson’s heroic retrieval of dead and wounded from an ambush. There’s nothing I can write that will make you admire this man more than seeing what he did and listening to his voice.

Cheap Valor

The hits just keep on coming. Not satisfied with smacking the individual states around, those wacky SCOTUS judges decided the military needs some “judicial activism”, just to let them know who’s boss. Hence we now have The Stolen Valor Act, deemed unconstitutional, allowing any gutless douche bag to lie about actually having a pair of balls and exhibiting same on the battlefield:

The Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act today, saying that the First Amendment defends a person’s right to lie — even if that person is lying about awards and medals won through military service.

The case started in 2007 when California man Xavier Alvarez was convicted under the Stolen Valor Act of 2006 — federal legislation that made it illegal for people to claim to have won or to wear military medals or ribbons they did not earn. Alvarez had publicly claimed to have won the country’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, but was later revealed to have never served in the military at all.

I understand the free expression angle on this, akin to not criminalizing the burning of American Flags, but this one I am having a hard time with. The SVA in it’s original form made perfect sense to me, namely, that there are things in life you don’t lie about, period. We honor the bravest of the brave with certain accolades and awards that are sacrosanct, their actions are deserving of a certain respect that others don’t get, and those accomplishments are protected. Those entering this particular arena without the proper credentials are not only exposed, but they pay an awful penalty, in memory of the real heroes. But now SCOTUS tells us that the accomplishment is not protected, that any loud mouth pussy can lie about this sacred act, and get away with it. I don’t like it.

In its 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court justices said today that as written, the act is too broad and ignores whether the liar is trying to materially gain anything through his or her false statement, which would be more akin to fraud.

Why does the gain have to be “material”? The simple fact that the lie was told reveals some gain that is pursued by the liar. Whether on a job resume, at the public gathering to curry favor, gratitude or an enhanced esteem, or even to facilitate fornicating with some pick up, the pretense is false.

The government’s argument talked about the harm incurred by telling this lie, and here is where I think the justices had an easy out. One of the free speech exceptions is defamation , this lie damages the reputation of every single legitimate MOH winner. The other angle of “fraud” I think is equally valid. There is no incident that I can think of where the telling of this lie was not intended to enhance his station or better his situation, but whatever gains he received from the telling of that lie was gained fraudulently.

I remember when the story of that POS Xavier Alvarez first surfaced, you can hear the offending words come out of his mouth here. This dumb shit didn’t realize that there is an easy accessible database of all MOH winner’s.

The original penalty given to Alvaraz was in my mind appropriate:

three years probation, a $5,000 fine and community service

But added to that, I would have had Alvarez write to every living MOH recipient (and the families of those passed) apologizing to each of them for stealing a small bit of their own valor.

I always thought that military heroism was worth protecting, a minority opinion?

Called To Honor

The human condition has always fascinated me. Whether it be heredity or environment, or a combination, some folks can step up to a challenge , turn on that switch and summon the effort at will, while others will wilt, run from it like a hot stove, and seek the comforts of ignominy and mediocrity. But it’s more than just doing the right thing. That voice in your head (conscience) can be either be magnified and unrelenting, or it can be dismissed and ignored, each person hears and obeys to his own tune.

It is with this in mind that we recognize the latest recipient of our nation’s highest award for bravery:

An Army Ranger who lost his right hand and suffered shrapnel wounds after throwing an armed grenade away from his fellow Soldiers will be the second living Medal of Honor Recipient from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On July 12, 2011, President Barack Obama will award Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry, with the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Petry will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in Paktya, Afghanistan, May 26, 2008.

The MOH is not something that is given out for just average acts of gallantry:

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President in the name of Congress on members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.”[1] Due to the nature of its criteria, it is often awarded posthumously

And what exactly to did Sgt. Petry do to warrant such high praise?

Recognizing the threat that the enemy grenade posed to his fellow Rangers, Petry — despite his own wounds and with complete disregard for his personal safety — consciously and deliberately risked his life to move to and secure the live enemy grenade and consciously throw the grenade away from his fellow Rangers, according to battlefield reports.

The military services have always recognized their heroes, not just because they are deserving of the accolades, but it speaks to the nature of the men themselves, their training, and the code by which they have chosen to live by, and such actions should be emulated.

I think that all men have this inner conversation within themselves at some point in their lives, namely, do I have the proper mettle? Whether we are talking about Omaha Beach, Picket’s charge, or even defending the hot gates as Thermopylae, what makes these soldiers do what they do?

The main reason the military focuses on esprit de corps in training, to foster the cohesion of the unit, the squad, and the platoon, is that when you are a team, you will subordinate your welfare to that of your unit. You will not let your buddies down, period. When writing this post I was thinking about that hero of heroes, Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in American history:

When asked after the war why he had seized the machine gun and taken on an entire company of German infantry, he replied simply, “They were killing my friends.”

Yep, nothing will piss off a soldier more than seeing his buddies in danger.

Petry has served as a grenadier, squad automatic rifleman, fire team leader, squad leader, operations sergeant, and weapons squad leader.

He has deployed eight times in support of the War on Terror, with two tours to Iraq and six tours to Afghanistan.

It’s times like this that we put away the politics, and the wisdom (folly) for placing our best and brightest in harm’s way in this manner, and we pay tribute to extra ordinary achievement from someone who was just doing his job, but did it in a manner that makes us all proud.