Many Good Men: Why So Few Medals of Honor?
Today, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Salvatore Augustine Giunta. This is the first time a living soldier has been awarded this honor since Vietnam. It is the nation’s highest military honor. Giunta is twenty-five years old. In the introduction to her 60 Minutes piece on Giunta, CBS correspondent Lara Logan noted that the Medal is awarded for “extreme bravery in the face of almost certain death.” Giunta exhibits all the qualities we expect in our heroes: humility, courage, calm.
“Did you ever wake up in the morning and think, What the Hell am I doing here?”
“I woke up every morning thinking, What the Hell am I doing here?”
We cannot fail to honor the sacrifices these young men are making. The New York Times Week in Review last Sunday included a piece by Elizabeth Rubin; she was embedded with Giunta’s unit, and she wrote about the experience. She saw first-hand what happened, and articulated what’s bittersweet in the wake:
[Giunta] has said that if he is a hero then everyone who goes into the unknown is a hero. He has said he was angry to have a medal around his neck at the price of Brennan’s and Mendoza’s lives. It took three years for the Pentagon to finalize the award. And it is puzzling to many soldiers and families why the military brass has been so sparing with this medal during the last decade of unceasing warfare.
People always say that in our post-draft age Americans find it hard to relate to war, especially one a world away. Even the word “war” seems so abstract, something sucking vital resources from families at a time when most are suffering. This isn’t what we felt in former wars; we miss the clarity of purpose nations—including ours—felt in times when the “world” engaged in wars with Ends. Yet young men placing their lives at risk do so with the same passion and courage of their predecessors. They have no choice. Even if an Administration—and a public—waivers, our soldiers never will.
This is why we need Medals of Honor. Medals mean something to us even as—ironically—they might mean less to those who wear them. After Giunta referred to himself as “mediocre,” Logan said, “This is the single greatest honor that the military can bestow on its own, and it comes right from the President of the United States himself. That’s pretty good for a mediocre soldier.” “Think how good the great soldiers are,” Giunta responded, without hesitation.
All Quiet on the Western Front was published in 1929. In it, German author Erich Maria Remarque wrote of his peers on the frontlines that "We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war." There are eighty-six Medal of Honor recipients alive. Every schoolchild should know their names and the meaning of their legacy. We believe in them. We hope they do not stop believing in us.
Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."
- Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
- Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
- Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.
- The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
- Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
- Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
Lauren Miranda sent a nude selfie to a boyfriend years ago. Somehow one of her students discovered it.
- Math teacher Lauren Miranda was fired from her Long Island school when a topless selfie surfaced.
- Miranda had only shared the photo with her ex-boyfriend, who is also a teacher in the school district.
- She's suing the school for $3 million as well as getting her job back, citing gender discrimination.
An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.
- Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
- The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
- The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.