<< The Body Politic

Awarding the Medal of Honor to Iraq War Servicemembers

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

The President of the United States has awarded 3,471 Medals of Honor since the award’s inception in 1861, recognizing soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines for risking their life above the call of duty. James Roberts, writing in the Wall Street Journal, laments the fact that not a single living service member has received the Medal of Honor from service in the Iraq War, and provides a remarkable example of valor deserving of recognition.

Eight Medals of Honor have been awarded to veterans of the war in Afghanistan, including five living service members. The most recent recipient of the nation’s highest military honor was Ty Carter, a veteran of Afghanistan, who received the award on August 26, 2013 for his bravery in the Battle of Kamdesh.

However, the same does not hold for the Iraq War. Despite lasting nearly a decade and requiring the service of more than 1.5 million American men and women, only four Medals of Honor have been given to veterans of the war, and they were all awarded posthumously. This is not for a lack of deserving candidates, Roberts argues. While commending the bravery of soldiers who fought in Afghanistan, Roberts argues that “American forces also fought bravely and with determination in harsh conditions in Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul. They lived through some of the fiercest combat since Vietnam. These veterans displayed extraordinary valor and selfless sacrifice.”

Citing the bravery of Marine Sgt. Maj. Bradley Kasal, Roberts makes the case that there are many living Iraq War veterans deserving of the Medal of Honor. Sgt. Kasal entered an enemy-occupied building in Fallujah nicknamed the “house of hell” to provide assistance to comrades who were trapped. He dragged a wounded Marine to safety, was wounded by seven rounds of fire in the process, before rolling on top of the wounded Marine to absorb the blast of a grenade, receiving 43 shrapnel wounds.

Roberts argues that Medal of Honor recipients become powerful examples of civic virtue, particularly to young Americans. Roberts says:

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. To use Lincoln’s famous phrase, it would be “altogether fitting and proper”—as well as just—if the president were to pay tribute to all of the 1.5 million veterans of that conflict by recognizing the first of the many deserving candidates with the Medal of Honor.