BY PATRICK H. BRADY, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — 02/20/20 11:30 AM EST
At a time when Americans seem more polarized than ever, there is one thing we all agree on –the need to respect our military and those who have served. A CBS News poll shows that more than 90 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the military, and Gallup’s annual public confidence survey consistently ranks the military as the government institution Americans trust most.
Courage, sacrifice, patriotism, citizenship, integrity, commitment and selfless service. These are the values embodied by the U.S. military and that unite us as Americans. And there are no better exemplars of these values than recipients of the nation’s highest award for valor in combat, the Medal of Honor.
To tell the inspiring stories of our nation’s Medal of Honor recipients, the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation is working to establish a museum in Arlington, Texas, and a monument in Washington, D.C. These tributes will not only preserve and share the stories of the more than 3,500 recipients in our history, but they will also serve to inspire future generations as reminders of the unparalleled bravery that has safeguarded the American way of life.
Medal of Honor recipients hail from every state in the union and every walk of life, and represent every generation of service members since the Civil War. Their contributions also extend far beyond the battlefield. Most Americans understand that Medal of Honor recipients went above and beyond the call of duty in placing themselves in harm’s way to save lives. But many may not realize how the character and values of these individuals – the very attributes that led to bravery in battle – have positively impacted countless lives far away from war zones.
Theodore Roosevelt, the only president to have earned the Medal of Honor, recognized the importance of good acts both weighty and commonplace in what has become the Museum’s motto, saying, “The lives of truest heroism are those in which there are no great deeds to look back upon. It is the little things well done that go to make up a truly successful and good life.”
Take for instance General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in WWI and went on to establish the Office of Strategic Services – the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency. More recently, Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II, a fourth-generation service member, was awarded the Medal of Honor for keeping a large insurgent force at bay while caring for wounded soldiers during more than five hours of heavy gunfire in the Battle of Shok Valley in Afghanistan. Today he works for the U.S. Secret Service’s Counter Assault Team, providing tactical support to protect the president of the United States.
And Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter, a medically retired Marine who received the Medal of Honor after throwing himself on a grenade to save the life of a fellow soldier in Helmand Province in Afghanistan in 2010. He has committed his life to educating Americans about his story and the stories of fellow service members and the sacrifices they make to protect our freedom.
For these exceptional patriots, service is a lifetime commitment. Americans should have places to learn from their examples.
Reps. Marc Veasey (D-Texas) and Ron Wright (R-Texas) have introduced H.R. 5173, the National Medal of Honor Monument Act, which will create a National Medal of Honor Monument in Washington, D.C., to commemorate our nation’s Medal recipients. The monument will be an inspiration to everyone around the country, serving as a ceremonial place of reflection to honor past and future heroes alongside the other markers of our shared history.
With just 71 Medal of Honor recipients living today, now is the time to capture and share their stories of bravery with the rest of America. The National Medal of Honor Museum in Arlington, Texas, and the National Medal of Honor Monument in Washington, D.C., will ensure their legacies of service and sacrifice live on as reminders of the best America has to offer. Every American will benefit from knowing what serving the country means, and there are no better examples to learn from than those with the highest character, who were the bravest in battle.
Patrick H. Brady is a retired Army major general, Medal of Honor recipient and member of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation Board of Directors.