of Honor Heroes Set the Standard, England Says
Fred W. Baker III
of Honor recipients are heroes, despite their many humble
objections to the label, and are important to the fabric
of our society, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England told those gathered
to celebrate the official naming of March 25 as National Medal
of Honor Day.
Medal of Honor recipients and their families, politicians,
senior military members and others packed the historic caucus
room in the Russell Senate Office
Building to honor those wearing the nation’s highest military award for
designated March 25 each year as National Medal
of Honor Day. The day is significant as the day the first
Medal of Honor was presented in 1863.
ceremony, England highlighted the importance of the honor
and its recipients
to the nation and its military.
are important. They are important to our military. But they
are also important to every citizen and to every person in
the world who enjoys and yearns for freedom and liberty,” England
set standards for the rest of us to aspire to. And by their
example they encourage others to excel,” he said.
also recognized at the ceremony the two most recent recipients
of the award, Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham and Army Sgt. 1st
Class Paul Smith, both recognized posthumously for bravery
in the war in Iraq.
are an example of this generation of Americans who volunteer
to serve and who serve today in sacrifice for all of us,” England
said. “In performing these acts, the recipients have
demonstrated resolve, commitment, determination, will and
raw courage to prevail. Those qualities are the underpinning
of our nation.”
read a letter from President Bush to the group. In the letter,
Bush said the country owes Medal of Honor recipients a debt
for their service and, for many, the ultimate sacrifice of
country is in debt to these great warriors and that debt
is one that we can never fully pay,” Bush wrote. “The
courage and leadership of the men and women who are honored
on this day represent the highest ideals in military service
and each of them has set a fine example of what it means
to be a fine American.”
Army Command Sgt. Maj. and Medal of Honor recipient Gary
L. Littrell took the podium following the evening’s
longest ovation for a speaker.
said that during the past two years he has visited troops
in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said that such visits help him
appreciate the freedom we have in America.
we get complacent — which I do quite often, and I forget
the freedom that we have — all you have to do is visit a
third-world country, and how quickly will you appreciate
what the young men and women in uniform are doing for the
freedoms that we have today,” he said.
said that during his visits he likes to ask the servicemembers
if they know why they are serving and fighting.
get a stern look,” he said.
look at me and they say, ‘Sergeant Major, I am here
because I am fighting this global war on terrorism on their
land and in their country to keep them from bringing it back
to ours,’” Littrell said.
said he views National Medal of Honor Day as a call to action
for its living recipients to help perpetuate the purpose
of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.
do not view 25 March for the years to come as a day to honor ‘we’ the
Medal of Honor recipients,” he said. “I view
the 25th of March as a day that we the Medal of Honor recipients
can give back to our youth.”
said he plans to spend the day each year speaking to groups
such as the Boy or Girl Scouts, or at schools.
educate our youth. Let’s give to our kids — the future
leaders of this great nation,” Littrell said.
is the current president of the Congressional Medal of Honor
Society. Littrell was a sergeant first class in Vietnam in
1970 when his actions earned him the Medal of Honor.
3,444 servicemembers have received the nation’s highest military
honor for courage under fire.
112 recipients living today.