Monday, March 7, 2011

Lecture Looks at the Medal of Honor

---John Kennedy, Director of Education and Public Outreach


Dwight Zimmerman and John Gresham were the guest lecturers on 3 March as they discussed their recent book Uncommon Valor: The Medal of Honor and the Six Warriors Who Earned it in Afghanistan and Iraq. During the war in Vietnam, there were 246 Medals of Honor awarded, 154 were awarded posthumously. Since that time, and prior to the publication of this book in 2010, there have been only eight men who earned this honor for their actions deemed “above and beyond the call of duty.” All of these medals were awarded posthumously, two in Modgdishu, Somalia, in 1993 and the remaining six during the on-going wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The book gives a short, detailed description of each of the six, the circumstances they found themselves in, and why they responded as they did to the situation. To read only about the individuals is a worthwhile endeavor for all.

Authors, Dwight Zimmerman (l.) and John Gresham (r.)
with Army Major Michael Baka
Yet, another aspect of the book is to look at the medal, itself, in relation to the other medals given for valor. Of the three categories, the Medal of Honor and the Crosses (Army Distinguished Service, Navy, and Air Force) are uncommonly awarded. The Bronze and Silver Stars, on the other hand, are able to be awarded locally and, therefore, easier to award for specific actions. In illustration of the point as to the difficulty associated with getting a citation for the MOH approved, the authors were able to use the example of SPC Ross McGinnis who was killed in 2006 in Iraq. In the audience was the company commander for McGinnis, Major Michael Baka, presently a student at the Naval War College. He was leading the six-vehicle patrol when the incident happened and was the one who did the paperwork that initially started the process of getting the necessary statements to the event and ensuring the correct procedures were followed. The authors pointed out that this well documented action met all of the criteria for the MOH and was the fastest award to approval of the six that had been awarded. From start to finish, the process took eighteen month. The Medal of Honor was not awarded to the family until 2008.

Upcoming Eight Bells Lectures include:

10 March: Maritime Power and the Law of the Sea: Expeditionary Operations in World Politics by CDR James Kraska

29 March: The Great Wall at Sea: China’s Navy in the Twenty-first Century by Bernard "Bud" Cole
Please call 401-841-2101 to make a reservation.

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