Medal of Honor Rarely Given in Iraq, Afghanistan

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tom McGinnis, father of posthumous Medal of Honor recipient Spc. Ross McGinnis, displayed his son's medal with pride following a White House ceremony. (Flickr: U.S. Army Photo by Carrie McLeroy)

On Wednesday, President Obama will present the Medal of Honor to the parents of Staff Sergeant Robbie Miller, killed in action in Afghanistan at the age of 24. Miller is credited with saving the lives of seven American soldiers and fifteen Afghan troops as he charged toward an enemy position, drawing fire away from his comrades. 

Miller is only the third person to receive the Medal of Honor for valor in Afghanistan, and many wonder why that number is so low. 

Questions like that led Brendan McGarry, database editor for The Army Times, to dig into the numbers of Medal of Honor recipients in Iraq and Afghanistan compared to recipients in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. What he found came as a surprise: In those earlier conflicts, the rate of medals received was 2 - 3 per 100,000 troops. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the rate has been far, far lower: 2 - 3 medals per 1,000,000 troops.


McGarry joins us along with Doug Sterner, a military award historian who tracks who is awarded medals - and why. 


Comments [8]

Brad Morrison from Richmond, TX

I think the emphasis on verification is a direct reflection of the Pentagon's embarrassment over the manufactured narratives for two high-profile recipients of miltary medals: Jessica Lynch and Pat Tindall.

Apparently the bravery, valor, and honor is on the battlefield, not in the Pentagon. We find ourselves with little more than craven bureaucrats running the show in our nation's capital. We get what we tolerate.

Oct. 06 2010 09:26 PM
Don from Seattle

I am opposed to immigration "reform" (amnesty). This country is overpopulated, and 21 million Americans are out of work.

Oct. 05 2010 07:19 PM

See for more information on Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller. Here's to all of our troops who serve the nation on behalf of us all.

Oct. 05 2010 01:06 PM
g.e.Taylor from Bklyn., NY

" . . . . Casualty rates in Iraq have been considerably lower that during the Vietnam conflict, and a greater proportion of troops wounded in Iraq survive their wounds. . . ."

Oct. 05 2010 09:56 AM
g.e.Taylor from Bklyn., NY

"What hasn't changed is the number of men and women who have been killed or wounded in action in the war."
— Doug Sterner

Sorry, Mr. Sterner, I didn't catch your citation comparing, for example, the deaths and/or wounded per hundred thousand of (in-theater) soldiers in Iraq-Afghanistan vs. World War Two or Viet Nam.

Oct. 05 2010 09:28 AM
Naomi Paz Greenberg from Forest Hills

Not quite on-topic but not irrelevant either:

There are some facts that just cause me to wonder:

From the people who brought us Napalm, the US military is now going green. Perhaps they can make renewable energy respectable just as they did with racial integration and might yet with equal treatment of gay and lesbian Americans.

The other fact that may have been a headline at the time: South Africa, which once had laws against interracial marriage, is the first African country to have legalized same sex marriage.

Now, if only they - and by they I mean every military force - would stop treating human beings like renewable resources - and by human beings I mean soldiers, civilians, insurgents/freedom fighters.... and just stop killing people and putting them in harm's way,
perhaps we can get the military forces of the world to make peace respectable.

If we rendered unto God all the things that belong to God, there would be nothing left for Caesar. - Dorothy Day.

Oct. 05 2010 08:55 AM
g.e.Taylor from Bklyn., NY

The story does a disservice to the public in that the issue is presented without context - the only issue apparently involves whether non-citizen soldiers are discriminated against by intra-service investigatory boards.
Why does the medal of honor criteria favor the one day exploits of the soldiers of "Point du hoc" over the multi-yeared anguish experienced by the warriors behind "drone" control panels located in Arizona? I'm sure the publishing industry (or WNYC) will eventually succeed in removing that biased bias.
Whether the military is systematically denying non-citizen soldiers the honors they are due is an issue that awaits a more informative story than was presented. (Of course, in "WNYC-world", there is almost no injustice that cannot be ameliorated by "comprehensive-immigration-reform")

Oct. 05 2010 08:53 AM
George J. Robinson from Manhattan (NY NY)

I am a twice-wounded, permanently disabled Vietnam veteran.

In my view, anyone who serves in a combat situation deserves a Medal of Honor?

Why? Because vis-a-vis the "average American," e.g., the American electorate who, given the opportunity to elect two Vietnam veterans - one, McCain, even considered a genuine hero - instead chose two draft-dodgers, Clinton and "W."

This demonstrates the low esteem in which soldiers are actually held vs. the public, albeit much too easily proffered, sentiments of patriotism (e.g. bumper-sticker patriots displaying "Support Our Troops" ribbon stickers) so commonly seen.

So, since most Americans are clearly unwilling to risk their lives for their democratically-elected (except AD2000) government's international commitments, those who in the absence of a draft volunteer to do so, should be recognized as honorable if by no on else, at least by the politicians who, rather than offering their own children as, e.g. is the case with the sons of England' Royals, exploit their sometimes. misguided patriotism.

PS- The draft registration law's exemption of females, besides being sexist and patronizing, is a clear violation of the "Equal Protection Clause" of the Fourteenth Amendment, Why in the 21st Century does this discriminatory prejudice stand? (PPS - I hope WNYC and/or NPR will have a show (Brian Lehrer, To The Point, et. al.) devote a show to this subject).

Thank you.

Oct. 05 2010 08:37 AM

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