The Pentagon has recommended a currently unidentified soldier to be the
first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since Vietnam
, according to the Washington Post. In a battle in Afghanistan, the candidate “ran through a wall of enemy fire” to repel a Taliban attack, the story says.
Till now, the only people awarded the Medal of Honor for combat in Iraq or Afghanistan have been killed in action—six in all, three of whom jumped on grenades to protect their comrades.
Where have the living heroes gone? The military gives the Post one explanation:
[T]he nature of battle has changed, said Eileen M. Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman. Precision bombs and lethal attack helicopters typically give U.S. troops a huge firepower advantage over lightly armed insurgents on the battlefield. To compensate, fighters in Afghanistan and Iraq have relied heavily on roadside bomb attacks and ambushes that lasted for only a few minutes. Previous Medal of Honor recipients have typically displayed extreme bravery in battles that last for hours.
Under this mutual hit-and-run system, if a 21st-century battle turns into protracted, hard fighting, somebody made a tactical error. This Medal of Honor candidate, and two others who the Post reports are earlier in the review process, “served in sparsely populated valleys in eastern Afghanistan that U.S. troops have abandoned in recent years.” Valor is admirable, but discretion is policy.