If you’ve never read "Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty"—a New York Times best seller—I recommend it highly. This uncommon coffee-table size book profiles 139 Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, and tells the unfathomable accounts of courage for which these individuals earned the nation’s highest decoration for valor in military combat.
Now imagine the privilege of sharing an evening with nearly half of the 82 living recipients, as I did recently at the annual “Circle of Honor” dinner in New York City. The purpose of the event was to celebrate what the Medal represents. Attendees also heard how Congressional Medal of Honor Society members are actively promoting patriotism and love of country, and inspiring youth to become worthy dedicated citizens.
It was an emotionally powerful evening unlike anything I have ever experienced—humbling to put it mildly.
Of the dozen or so Medal recipients with whom I talked, every man stated they felt unworthy. These veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War were quick to tell me they were only doing their jobs. And now they wear the Medal on behalf of fallen comrades.
As you Leaf through "Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty"—or if you ever share the company with as many of these genuine heroes as I did—you cannot help but be struck by the fact that the vast majority are former Marines and infantry soldiers. Even if you include all of the recipients who are now deceased, such is still the case.
Only a few are former airmen. Why?
It is not as though all pilots of fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft who saw combat during the last 50 years did not put their lives on the line.
I will try to answer that question in a feature in Aviation Week & Space Technology this coming May 28, Memorial Day. It will be based on interviews with Medal of Honor recipients who were airmen and others who have an informed opinion on the subject.
Let me know what you think—why do you suppose relatively few airmen have been awarded the Medal of Honor?