This weekend’s New York Times Sunday Magazine contains a fascinating article that hits quite close to home for me. Centered around the story of a 25-year-old Marine who — despite horrific wounds — had the presence of mind and courage to scoop a live grenade under his body to save the lives of his comrades, the article asks a simple question: Why is the military awarding so few medals of honor? Are we less courageous now? Or is the military stifling valor awards in a labyrinthine bureaucracy dominated by rear echelon second-guessers? The numbers are stunning:
Despite its symbolic importance and educational role in military culture, the Medal of Honor has been awarded only six times for service in Iraq or Afghanistan. By contrast, 464 Medals of Honor were awarded for service during World War II, 133 during the Korean War and 246 during the Vietnam War. “From World War I through Vietnam,” The Army Times claimed in April 2009, “the rate of Medal of Honor recipients per 100,000 service members stayed between 2.3 (Korea) and 2.9 (World War II). But since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, only five Medals of Honor have been awarded, a rate of 0.1 per 100,000 — one in a million.”
Go read the whole thing.