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Dishonoring the Medal of Honor

My fellow columnist Thomas Friedman says the world is flat. Fair enough. But I’ve been saying for a long time that the Internet is flat.


By "flat," I mean that it makes no real distinction between good information and bad, between something from the Encyclopedia Britannica and something excreted into cyberspace by a guy with far more bandwidth than brain. 

What this means is that the pinheads and loudmouths whose wacky or outright repulsive pronouncements were once confined to those within earshot of a barstool or soapbox now get a worldwide platform where they can appear as important as someone who actually knows what he or she is talking about.

Evidence the man in question, the "director of issues analysis" for something grandiosely named the American Family Assn. (I sometimes speculate that the grandeur of the name is in inverse proportion to the size and gravitas of the organization in question. Take the self-styled Dove World Outreach Center, a Florida church with a congregation no more numerous than a couple of fifth-grade classes, whose pastor held hostage the attention of official Washington and much of the media with his off-again, on-again threat to burn Korans on Sept. 11.)

Now we have the insulting ignorance -– or ignorant insult -– of this other supposed man of God who is denouncing the awarding of the nation’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor, to Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta for saving his fellow soldiers’ lives in Afghanistan, as having "feminized" the award. "When," opined this "issues analyst," Bryan Fischer, "are we going to start awarding the Medal of Honor once again for soldiers who kill people and break things so our families can sleep safely at night?"

My question is, when are we going to stop letting people who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about hijack the public discourse?

For starters, Fischer could do a little research, like reading the fine book about some other recipients. "Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty’"is by Peter Collier, with photographs by Nick Del Calzo and a foreword by President George H.W. Bush.

You can’t read these accounts without getting a lump in the throat and tears in the eyes. This book was devoted to living medal recipients, but many Medals of Honor were awarded posthumously, and many of them to servicemen who sacrificed themselves not to kill the enemy but to save their fellow soldiers.

There’s the story of a World War II medic who was awarded the medal for single-handedly saving dozens of wounded soldiers from an Okinawa hilltop under Japanese fire. That man was a Seventh-day Adventist named Desmond T. Doss. His faith barred him from bearing arms but not from serving as a medic.

Here is part of the account in the book:

"On Okinawa, in the late spring of 1945, his battalion was assaulting a jagged escarpment rising up four hundred feet whose summit was commanded by well entrenched Japanese forces. It was a battle that … continued on for nearly three weeks as the Japanese fought back from caves and tunnels. At one point [Doss] treated four men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, Only a few yards from the Japanese guns, he dressed each of their wounds and made four trips to drag them to safety."

On a Saturday -- Doss’ Sabbath -- he was the only medic available during an intense assault. He told himself that Christ had healed seven days a week, and joined the other men. The massive Japanese assault took down dozens of soldiers. Doss, 'under constant fire,' tended the wounded, got them to the edge of the escarpment, and lowered them down in a rope sling, praying each time that God would 'let me get just one more man.' When night fell, he had rescued 75 men.

Several days later, when he himself was wounded by a grenade and was being carried to an aid station, he insisted that a badly wounded soldier take his stretcher."

Account after account of the valor exhibited by Medal of Honor recipients attests not only to men who attacked the enemy but to men who threw themselves on grenades to protect their comrades, who led rescues, who died helping to save the wounded.

During the Vietnam War, another future Medal of Honor awardee, Rear Adm. James B. Stockdale, who was the senior POW in the "Hanoi Hilton," didn’t kill his captors. Rather, he defied them ferociously, and took the punishment meted out by the North Vietnamese in order to spare his comrades. But maybe that's too ''feminine'' for Fischer.

Fischer would do well to shut his yap and open his eyes, and to brush up on his history and his Bible, starting with John 15:13: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

-- Patt Morrison

[UPDATE: A previous version of this blog post displayed a photo of Sgt. Salvatore Giunta. It has been removed.]

 

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Comments () | Archives (33)

The comments to this entry are closed.

John Huggins

Sir,

Upon reading the web article you reference, I find none of the "quotes" that I am led to believe come from that article. Sgt. Salvatore Giunta is not mentioned or even suggested. The point of the article is to suggest that in addition to the men who have earned and have rightly gotten the congressional medal of honor, there are others who have not, but may be deserving. Those men's (and women's) actions were more of the assault the enemy and take ground type as opposed to the save my buddies actions. Both men have historically received the Medal of Honor, but in recent years the men taking ground seem to be forgotten. I find a completely different tone and message in the primary source as to the tone and message described in your OPINION piece.

Thank you for sending me to the source where I can find the truth. I think that is what a journalist or opinion columnist is suppose to do.

Larry Linn

Bryan Fischer has never served in the military of the United States! Yet he makes baseless judgments about military service. He has never experienced combat! Yet he makes baseless judgments about the glory of the battlefield experience. Nothing seems glorious in the midst of the battlefield. A soldier must always attempt to take multiple rational actions in a state of chaos. Bryan Fischer has never shared LRP’s for breakfast with several members in his unit, only a few hours later see them shot. He has never experienced bullets and shrapnel flying all around him, nor has he heard the screams of pain from your squad members awaiting a Medi-vac. Bryan Fischer will never forget the smell of burning flesh because he does not know what it smells like. Military Moron Bryan Fischer does not understand that many combat tactics, such as flanking can have both aggressive and defensive facets. Bryan Fischer does not realize that interdependence, reliance, and trust among the members of combat units facilitate both valor and victory. As far as I know none of Bryan Fischer’s grown children ever served our country in the military. He does not know what parents go through fearing the knock on the door. It is ironic that Chicken Hawk Bryan Fischer wants to redefine the Medal of Honor, but does not understand that rescuing fellow wounded soldiers is an act of honor. If Bryan Fischer had any honor, he would apologize to Sergeant Salvatore Giunta. Personally, I want to thank Sergeant Giunta for his valor and service. Thank you.

Jon Healey

@John -- I just read Fischer's piece, and thought Patt's distillation of the content was accurate. You must not have read it because if you had, you would have seen that Fischer started his essay with the words, "The Medal of Honor will be awarded this afternoon to Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta for his heroism in Afghanistan, and deservedly so. " So much for not mentioning Sgt. Giunta.

Granted, Patt may have gone a little far in suggesting that Fischer was "denouncing" the latest award. But the unmistakable point of his piece was to bemoan the recognition of life-saving acts instead of life-taking ones. So even though he says Sgt. Giunta deserved his medal right up front, Fischer goes on to explain why the sergeant really didn't, and why his award is just the latest in a series that devalue the prize. I'm with Ms. Morrison on this one -- Fischer's position is contemptible.

John Huggins

Jon,

I will ask forgiveness for not knowing that there are four articles written by Mr Fischer on this theme. I read only the most recent before posting my previous comment. I ask Patt Morrison for forgiveness for questioning her journalistic activities. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the first, and apparently most controversial, article on line. I have been able to read the last three. Based upon those three, my analysis stands. The tone and message of the articles are not the same as that presented in this opinion piece. Unfortunately Patt Morrison has a bigger soap box.

MissTee

Speaking of "feminizing", how many heterosexual men spell Brian with a Y?

I think Lady Fischer doth protest too much. He would never be able to pull off such a feat, not in any aspect of his life. But I still have to wonder what has made him decide that the freaking MEDAL OF HONOR winner deserved such an attack. Forget the opening sentence of Fischer's article. It's the equivalent of him saying "I have lots of black friends, but..." Was the attack was triggered by some deep subconscious switch in Fischer's brain that reacts to "foreign sounding" names. What is this attack REALLY about?

The Orwellian-named "American Family Association" is nothing more than a wedge group, intent on splitting our nation apart.

gutbombs

If you find a completely different tone in the original article then you are not reading very closely. The editorial here in the Times got it exactly right and the demagogues at groups like the AFA should be exposed for the frauds they are.

Easy does it..

BRAVO, Patt Morrison! BRAVO!

tracy green

Excellent commentary. Thank you.

(Just a polite, respectful reminder that along with the many great men who have won the Medal of Honor, there are great women as well. )

whiskey

Patt Morrison does not (and cannot, being a woman) understand war.

A prominent example being John Basilone. Who for two days with two other men, fought off approximately 3,000 Japanese soldiers attacking his position on Guadalcanal. He fought his way through hostile ground to obtain ammunition to resupply the machine guns. Basilone alone prevented Henderson Field from being overrun. For this he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

By killing so many of the enemy, and preventing essentially Henderson from being captured, Basilone saved many, many, many Marine lives. It was not glamorous, it was not fun, it was not anything but unendurable, but nevertheless something that had to be endured, by heroic action and will. To hold the line so that all is not lost. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and his men at Little Round Top at Gettysburg understood this.

And the original point is well taken. Awarding the Medal of Honor is a political act. There are many who deserve it, for saving lives of countless fellow Soldiers, Marines, and Sailors, in action with unbelievable bravery because they had to. Killing the enemy in horrific action to save their fellows. I have no doubt whatsoever that at least twenty and possibly as many as fifty men have done things of mind-boggling bravery, in exposing themselves to great danger (and often dying) to save their fellows by killing the enemy.

But Morrison is uncomfortable with that, being a woman. She does not like to contemplate it, and neither does this President, nor the one before him, nor the one before him, nor the one before him. Men like Basilone (or Chamberlain) cause too many questions for politicians and their followers, in the Pentagon or the LAT. Sometimes you just have to kill great masses of the enemy, in ugly and horrible slaughter, to save your own. That is war, at its most brutal. It isn't fun. Nor without cost. And the only thing worse than winning it is ... losing it. And sometimes, it cannot be avoided.

L.A. Voter

I think it's pretty unfair to juxtapose this headline with a picture of Sgt. Giunta. He's a hero, and this article is about a man who is anything but. However, the immediate impression given by this headline next to Sgt. Giunta's face is that somehow he dishonored the Medal of Honor he earned by rescuing his fellow soldier. It's a good article, but unfairly slipshod presentation.

Mark

This article asks:

"My question is, when are we going to stop letting people who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about hijack the public discourse?"

The answer is:

When the media stops paying attention to these people.

I, honestly, never heard of this person's critical analysis until I read this op-ed. There is your answer, sir!

No Libs

The Medal of Honor was disgraced when Obama touched it.

Lawrence

Isn't it ironic that the Times gave an OpEd column for the current president of the AFA, Tim Wildmon, to write about his bigoted views against homosexuality in regards to the decision on Proposition 8?

JonathanK

Title "Dishonoring the Medal of Honor" with a photo of Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta was poor choice. The photo should have been of Bryan Fischer. It gave me a false impression that some how the Sgt had something to do with dishonoring MoH.

Having said that. I thought standard for Medal of Honor was higher than what had happen. It was a fine act of bravery but not to the level of Medal of Honor.

And when the nation is in such a dire strait. When personal privacy and liberty that America stands for is completely stripped of its root by the group that purported to be its guardian D, this chatter about known group who has been saying the same nonsensical stuff for decades gets the paper space is outrageous. It was a very narrow short sighted piece that doesn't really benefit anyone but maybe a scorned woman for some reason. But I guess it was a no news day to pick a fight with AFA operative. You should have picked a fight with entire evangelical Christian movement instead. I believe they are all agents of devil leading the blind to hell. That would have been worthy fight but one of its agents. Too many of them. Richard Land<- hit him..

CSD

What? A supposed "family values" hypocrite lamenting the fact that we aren't honoring slaughterers?

Dopes like this guy, a Bagger obviously. would rather the Medal go to Halliburton heroes driving around the desert in SUV's massacring civilians (as long as they are muslim). After all, according to these nauseating vermin, more dead musli,s would probably allow him to sleep "better" at night.

Just like any "religious" or "family values" blowhard, this guy is an immoral hater who probably ought to clean out his closet first.

Not sure what's so pathetic - these kind of germs or the dopes who follow them.

J Kenney

I actually served in war in the military, probably unlike many of the "posters" here. I also personally was a friend to a CMOH receipant, who has since passed away due to injuries suffered in war. He gave me a mug commenerating his award, it states that the CMOH is given for the following reason "SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE". I am beyond disgusted by the "fake right to lifers" who think that killing is the answer. May God have mercy on their non christian souls.

J

Mr Morrison,

Agree.

Rev Fischer does have a point. Too bad it is on top of his head.

My take on thisthe Florida Rev is; he does this kind of behavior for attention and the American Media gives him plenty. Why shine a spot light on him? Why reward bad behavior?

ZBee1

This was a nice article, well written, and with one of the major points being the internet allowing morons to have such a wide audience. Here, I'm thinking of "Whiskey"s comments about how the article writer was a "woman" and therefore she cannot, being though she is a woman, possibly understand war.
As a Navy veteran--and a woman--it always pisses me off to know that I served so that morons like "Whiskey" and nuts like Fisher can live in peace and spew their idiocy. "Whiskey": did you have an orgasm after writing your vivid description of how "war really is?" Second thing: You don't need to learn everything from actual experience. You can learn things via wisdom. Last thing: War isn't "hell." You'll find that out via experience.

Dave Hughes

Calling Sgt Giunta's actions just another case of the 'feminization' of awards for the Medal of Honor because he saved men fails to measure his actions against the legal MOH standards.

The operative criteria for the award includes "Conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against any enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations "

At the time of the firefight when the Taliban ambushed Sgt Giunt's patrol, what was his 'call of duty?" It was to, by means of firing back giving orders to his men, to prevent being overrun or all killed or wounded.

It was 'Beyond' that call of duty to personally - rather than order others under his command - even after having been hit several times in his armor AND having his weapon shattered by bullets - to get another weapon and move out of the security of the defensive perimeter of his men, exposing himself at 'risk of his life. Not once, but twice.

First to pull back a man to safety who was stunned by a bullet hitting his helmet. And THEN to go forward ALONE OVER A RIDGE in the direction of the enemy, where he saw one of his men wounded, down, being pulled by two Taliban trying to take the wounded man prisoner.

He charged at them, killing one, while the other one fled in fear.

Then as the Taliban obviously withdrew, he stayed, exposed with the fallen man, giving first aid to him.

Now, from the viewpoint of all his remaining men, that combination of actions was CONSPICUOUS bravery, and well 'beyond the call of THEIR and HIS duty .

Don't forget that it was HIS MEN who first told his commanders that what he did, given their trained, hardened, airborne-spirit character was deserving of an award! The Medal of Honor was not an Honor looking for a living recipient by senior persons remote from the action. When ones brave, trained, and fully competent fellow soldiers in a unit fiercely engaged in combat agree and say one of their member's actions were extraordinarily brave (more than they summoned ) that is the highest accolade a soldier or leader can have.

There was no diminution- or 'feminization' - whatever that means - of the value of the Medal of Honor in Sgt Guinta's case.

After reading about his actions, listening and watching on television he and other soldiers who were there, I asked myself whether I could have done what he did.

I am not sure I could/would have. I think I know what I am talking about. Having been in intense ground infantry combat in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. And having been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for actions in Korea.

Jim in DC

Although a veteran of Uniformed Military Service, I never served in combat or during time of war. However, I would like to make one small point to the varied comments above. The CMOH is a political award-no question, it is the "Congressional" medal after all. Many who deserve to be recommended for it are not. Many who should receive it-don't. But the CMOH does not denote bravery-it denotes recognition, and in most cases the ultimate sacrifice as most are awarded to the families of the fallen. The uniform that our service men and women wear denotes bravery and they all wear it, every day that they serve. God Bless them all./

carlyn snell

I am appalled that the author of this article would choose to place the title
Dishonoring the Medal of Honor above a photo of Sgt. Giunta. In a world where the public grabs sound bites and headlines rather than taking the time to examine the substance , this title is painfully misleading. I cannot begin to imagine the motivation behind using it . In fact, I would like to see it edited. Sgt. Giunta deserves far better.

Alexandra Le Tellier

A previous version of this blog post displayed a photo of Sgt. Salvatore Giunta. It has been removed.

carlyn snell

I am very happy to see that the photograph of Sgt. Giunta has been removed
from beneath the title of this article. It still remains interesting that on the Home page of the Times under the category Military, the description of the piece reads "Opinion: Dishonoring the Medal of Honor? ". That question mark should have been carried on to the actual title page.

Stephen Knutson

Since Viet Nam the USA has engaged in only senseless, meaningless and self serving wars. Large scale murders really like drug cartel gangs. There is nothing to be proud about there except that humans are capable of loving each other and we do not need wars to teach us that.

Robert NO longer in LA

The 1st Medal since Vietnam? Something stinks, and it IS the politicization of this Award, and the meatheads responsible...ALL of whom are in Washington DC. Does ANYONE believe, this was the first act of true HEROISM since Vietnam? When you see the chests of generals, admirals, colonels and Navy captains, they're OVERFLOWING with bogus awards - many never set foot anywhere near a BATTLEfield, just flew over in a heavily guarded aircraft, then flew home to Command in either Florida, or DC.....it really IS about the 'ground pounders, and not the political brass of the Pentagon.

Corpsmen and medics, ALL deserve the Highest awards....many of us wouldn't be here, without their unstinting courage! Many times, the men go UNarmed into battle, and do the UNTHINKABLE, with zero regard for their own well-being. Desmond Doss is one fine example, as certainly is, Sgt Giunta and Adm Stockdale.

Chris Brown

Well put. Thank you.

Ranger Ed

Myself
B Co
3rd Ranger Battalion
75th Ranger Regiment
1988-1992

I personally don't think what this hero did rises to the level of the MOH. Just one Rangers opinion. He is a Hero!

RLTW

Dan

To Robert No Longer in LA, this is the first LIVING Medal of Honor recipient since Vietnam. There have been others, but those were given posthumously.

Pragmatist

Conservatives attacked McCain's military service, Max Cleland's military service, John Kerry's military service while, as with Limbaugh and Cheney and the whole crew on Neocons, they avoided military service themselves.
This is just another step in the Right's attack on fundamental American values. They want the government to decide if we have an abortion or not. They want corporations to fund political candidates. They want our public schools to be turned into religious education institutes.
The danger is real and present.

Yourstruly

Larry, I couldn't have said it better !!! Kudos. The chicken littles always have opinions coming out of their backsides.

don

ah, hum, let's see, saving soldiers in combat so the soldiers can kill the enemy; looks like the point of the CMH is bravery in the effort to kill to me.

Andy Catsimanes

Morrison and Fischer deserve each other.

mike masters

Lest we forget: the slaughter of innocent Native American women and children by the U.S. military at Wounded Knee resulted in the awarding of 23 (that's twenty-three!) Congressional Medals of Honor to those responsible. (See Jackson Lears, "Rebirth of a Nation; The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920," Harpers Perennial, 2010).


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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.



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