An article in today’s San Diego Union-Tribune describes the decision of the Marine Corps to award a Navy Cross to Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta after he gave his life by smothering a grenade with his body to save his fellow Marines. I am not going to presume to comment on the value of that act in terms of the medal it deserves, that would be a judgement beyond my experience and expertise. The article is thoughtful, well written, and worth your time to read it.
The writer, Steve Liewer, limits the article to this individual case for the most part, although he does briefly discuss a larger issue of seeming reluctance on the part of the military to award its highest honor in this current war, doing so at a rate stunningly low compared to previous wars. The military says that it is because this war is different in nature, with little of the intense personal combat that typically generated such awards in the past, and I suspect there is some truth in that.
I have thoughts of a somewhat less innocent explanation which might well accompany that seemingly valid reason, though, and that is the military’s desire to “sanitize” this war.
The Medal of Honor is not awarded quietly; being the nation’s highest military award, it draws a great deal of publicity, and creates awareness of the sacrifice and dedication that went into the actions that led to the award. It pretty much never gets awarded to someone who has not been wounded, usually severely so, and many of the awards are posthumous.
I don’t think the military wants the public to be made aware of the nature of the price that is being paid by the men and women who are putting their lives on the line for this nation.