This year marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Second War in Iraq. But so far, not one living veteran out of 1.5 million soldiers, sailors, and air force personnel who fought in that conflict has been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award.
In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece
posted Sunday night, James C. Roberts, president of the American Veterans Center, slammed the lack of recognition as a "serious injustice."
Four posthumous Medal of Honor awards have been presented to the families of men who were killed in Iraq, Roberts wrote. Medals of Honor have been awarded to five living veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan, and to three others posthumously.
Roberts points to Marine Sgt. Maj. Bradley Kasal as having displayed extraordinary valor and selfless sacrifice in Iraq worthy of the highest medal.
"On Nov. 13, 2004, Sgt. Kasal entered an enemy-occupied building in Fallujah, a death trap dubbed the 'house of hell' by the Marines, to assist comrades who were pinned down. Under heavy fire, he killed an insurgent in the first moments of the battle, and while dragging a wounded Marine to safety he was hit by seven rounds of small-arms fire. He was seriously wounded but used the limited bandages available to treat the other Marine, leaving his own wounds unattended," Roberts wrote.
"When the insurgents lobbed a grenade at them, Sgt. Kasal rolled on top of the wounded Marine, absorbing the force of the blast and incurred 43 shrapnel wounds. He refused to get medical attention or leave the house until the other Marines were safe. The picture snapped of Sgt. Kasal staggering from the house – pistol gripped in his right hand, supported by two fellow Marines, his uniform soaked with blood – became an iconic photo of the Iraq war."
Kasal did receive the Navy Cross, the second-highest award for valor in 2006. But "does anyone seriously contend," Roberts challenged, "that he would not be a worthy recipient of the Medal of Honor?"
The Iraqi conflict left 32,226 wounded and 4,487 killed in action.
Roberts acknowledged that "the selection of Medal of Honor recipients is not an exact or scientific process" and involves "judgment calls by those in the Defense Department chain of command."
But he stressed that "it's never too late" to honor those who have made such extreme sacrifices for their country and their fellow comrades.
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