The Senate recently decided to award separate campaign medals to honor soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, just as soldiers were specially commended for serving in Vietnam and Korea (also conflicts, not declared wars).
Though the Defense Department had not supported the idea, the move - now with broad support in both Houses of Congress - isn't likely to be vetoed. Indeed, such commendation helps further distinguish the heroic efforts of the men and women serving in those conflicts.
The war dead and wounded are routinely counted and the prisoner-abuse scandal continues to generate lots of media attention. But in the spirit of recognizing ongoing heroic actions, here are just a few examples for which the Defense Department has recently awarded medals:
1. Marine Cpl. Timothy C. Tardif received the Silver Star (the military's third-highest award) in May for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy" in Iraq in April. During a battle in Tarmiyah, Tardif's platoon was ambushed. He crossed a road under fire, inspiring his Marines to follow. Though wounded, he refused medical attention and continued leading his squad against an enemy-held compound until it was secured.
2. Marine Maj. Neal Pugliese won a Bronze Star (the fourth-highest military combat medal) in February for "coolness, demeanor, and aggressive spirit." In March, Pugliese led troops in seizing Iraqi police headquarters in Baghdad. They came under fire, and he was forced to fall back and rally his men, and then take the headquarters. "Look at me as part of a team," he said, "and the other part of that team is the Marines."
3. Pvt. Dwayne Turner, a combat medic, received the Silver Star in February. Despite being critically wounded April 13, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire in Iraq that day to treat 16 fellow soldiers.
4. Army Reserve Sgt. First Class William McLeroy (who lost a leg 10 years ago) pulled two wounded Iraqi civilians under gunfire through concertina wire to safety. He also won the Bronze Star.
5. Pvt. Teresa Broadwell was awarded both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for her valiant efforts in providing critical cover as a gunner in a firefight in Karbala in November.
6. US Army Staff Sgt. Scott Smullen received the Soldier's Medal for risking his life to save an injured soldier in Afghanistan last April.
Though Americans have learned many times over that freedom costs lives in war, acts of valor also are part of that price. They can continue to remember, and honor, such bravery.