National Medal of Honor Day
By Brad Sturk, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 25, 2020
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Can you name a hall of fame athlete off the top of your head? What about an Academy Award winning actor or actress? A Medal of Honor recipient? I imagine the speed at which you answer these questions may decrease as you think about each one.
In a world where athletes, actors, and internet stars are more commonly idolized, today we should all be reminded to recognize and remember some of our military heroes.
March 25 is National Medal of Honor Day. This date was chosen because the first Medal of Honor was presented on March 25, 1863, during the Civil War. Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and National Medal of Honor Day are reminders to take a moment and be thankful for the men and women who have served and those who have died serving our country. However, unlike Veterans Day and Memorial Day, National Medal of Honor Day is not celebrated as a federal holiday, so it is important to highlight the magnitude of this day.
National Medal of Honor Day was established to help foster appreciation specifically for recipients of the nation’s highest military award. These brave individuals have shown true valor, risked their lives, and many have died in order to save the individuals they fight beside.
Actors who have won awards and athletes in the hall of fame are often regarded to be at the pinnacle of their profession. In most cases, they have put forth years of dedication to a craft in order to reach a level few can say they have achieved. I want to highlight the idea that we should also celebrate those who have received the military's highest award in a similar fashion.
Many Medal of Honor recipients, like U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter, have received the award after throwing themselves on top of a grenade in order to save the lives of those around them. Other recipients survived years as prisoners of war, such as George “Bud” Day, who was also posthumously advanced to the rank of brigadier general. Day, a major at the time, was forced to eject from his aircraft over Vietnam, broke multiple bones, and suffered gunshot wounds throughout his captivity. Day was eventually released after over five and half years in confinement.
Stories such as these remind us it’s important to be thankful more individuals have not been in similar situations, where their actions warranted being awarded the Medal of Honor. I believe we should hold these individuals in the highest regard and be reminded that March 25 is not the only day of the year that we should think about them.
The Department of Veterans Affairs states between 1775 and 1991, nearly 42 million U.S. military service members have served during times of war. From that group only 3,499 Medals of Honor have been awarded. That means not even 0.0084 percent of all those who have served have received the highest military award. An additional 26 medals have been awarded since 1991, including 19 during the Global War on Terrorism. While these numbers are small, the sacrifices made are far from it.
Today, on National Medal of Honor Day, I hope you are reminded that it’s not only the number of awards an actress has on her mantel or the number of homeruns a player hit in his career that can make them a hero. We should attribute gallantry and going above the call of duty to heroism as well. Today, we remember and honor the heroes who have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
To find out more information about the Medal of Honor, or to learn more about the recipients, visit the website for the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation at https://mohmuseum.org.