DoD stingy with Medal of Honor?

| September 16, 2014


CNN‘s Jake Tapper asks why so few Medals of Honor have been awarded during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars as compared to our much shorter involvement in previous wars. Leading the charge in Congress is Iraq veteran Duncan Hunter;

That reasoning drew ire from veterans like Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California.

“These are men rushing the enemy, looking them in the eye, and sometimes finishing them off with their knives, with their helmets, with empty rifles used as clubs. If that’s not close-quarter combat, I don’t know what is,” Hunter said in 2011. “Not recognizing them for what they’re doing is a travesty.”

Our buddy, Doug Sterner, an expert on the awards system;

Another theory comes from Vietnam veteran and historian Doug Sterner.

“We have people at the top who are reluctant to admit that we have a broken awards system and fix it,” he said.

The current generation of fighters is being denied recognition not because their actions are any less heroic, but because their leaders don’t know a medal contender when they see one, Sterner says.

My personal cause for the Medal of Honor is Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe, we were both Bradley platoon sergeants, but he is credited with saving the lives of six of his soldiers while he was on fire and under fire from the enemy. He repeatedly rushed into his burning Bradley and dragged his troops from it. From the New York Times;

According to the narrative that accompanied [SFC Cashe’s Silver Star Medal], the Bradley was engulfed in flames and Sergeant Cashe, drenched in fuel that had been spewed by the explosion, pulled himself out of the gunner’s hatch and helped the driver escape. The narrative describes what happened next:

“Without regard for his personal safety, S.F.C. Cashe rushed to the back of the vehicle, reached into the hot flames and started pulling out his soldiers. The flames gripped his fuel-soaked uniform. Flames quickly spread all over his body. Despite the terrible pain, [SFC} Cashe placed the injured soldier on the ground and returned to burning vehicle (sic) to retrieve another burning soldier; all the while he was still on fire.”

The narrative said that Sergeant Cashe’s actions helped save the lives of six soldiers.

After his death, Sergeant Cashe’s commanding officers learned that his platoon had come under enemy fire while the sergeant was rescuing his fellow soldiers — and as a result they petitioned for his Silver Star, the military’s third-highest valor award, to be upgraded to a Medal of Honor.

SFC Cashe succumbed to his injuries after a final reunion with his family at Fort Sam Houston. And then we discovered that his headstone at Arlington listed the wrong medal.

There are only four Medals of Honor for Iraq, SFC Cashe needs to be the fifth.

Alwyn Cashe

Category: Real Soldiers

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I agree entirely about SFC Cashe, but it is also a travesty that there is no living MOH recipient for Iraq. PFC Stephen Sanford and (then) 1LT Brian Chontosh are both deserrving.


The raw numbers indeed seem to indicate a real problem.

Number of military personnel serving in-country in Vietnam: approx 2.6 million

Number of MoHs awarded: Wikipedia says 248 (the linked article says 258)

Number of military personnel serving in-country in Iraq and Afghanistan to date: approx 1.3 million (estimated from various published sources)

Number of MOHs awarded: Wikipedia says 16


Jonn, Had not heard about Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe. If that isn’t MOH material there, then we better do away with the award all together. Mr. Sterner said it correctly. Commanders don’t know what a contender for each award really is. I think because of that many medals go without award and into the private histories of only a few who were there. God bless SFC Cashe’s family. He’s a hero in my book.


I’ll attribute the low number of honorees from Iraq and Afghanistan to simple minded, politically correct train of thought. Finger pointing every which way aside, I’ll
wager thats the root of the problem. Or it could be that “everyone gets a trophy” mentality.

Mike Kozlowski

…FWIW, I – and more than a few people I know – believe quite frankly that there are People In Authority who don’t WANT MOH winners out there who (or their families) might question the Administration or its decisions. ‘Absolute Moral Authority’, ya know, but that only applies when they’re questioning Republicans.



I’d also be interested to see the rate of awarding the other valor awards (service crosses, Silver Stars, Bronze Stars both with and without “V”) to previous conflicts.

Seems like they’re handing out Bronze Stars like penny candy, and pretty stingy with anything above that. YMMV.


NHSparky-you can see awards statistics for the Army at

Just looking at Vietnam vs. Iraq and Afghanistan there seem to be far fewer awards for valor (even accounting for the differing conditions in the various conflicts) while the BSMs for service/achievement do not seem as disproportionate.

Uncle Marty

Only if you have to be of higher rank.

E6 and below… Maybe an ARCOM sometimes a fucking AAM of a End of Tour Award.

CB Senior

Current mind set has eliminated half of potential Awards. In previous Wars, one would be nominated for their Bravery above and beyond because of their sheer force of killing the enemy. Now killing our enemies is bad, so one has to be doing this killing in an Altruistic fashion for it to be Heroic.
Even the MoH system has been broken for a long time. Their are many examples that makes you wonder.
A Colonel, MoH Awardee is recognized for his actions manning a 50 cal. Protecting his unit from a destruction. Deservedly so, but he was the third man that day on the 50 cal. What about the other 2 men that died manning that weapon? Was the 2nd guy a 50 cal man or just some grunt who hopped up to man it and try to save his unit?


I wonder if counting the number of personnel in country is a good way to calculate the statistics. Iraq and A-stan were very different wars than Vietnam (no disrespect intended, I just believe it’s true)
I wonder if the number of service members engaged in contact with the enemy over the course of the wars would show the same type of discrepancy. I don’t know.
I appreciate you telling us about SFC Cashe.


Serious question…is there any data on how many people were submitted for the MoH and had their awards downgraded?


I’m sure the services have or can get that info, Jabatam. But it may not be that readily available.

And I think you can bet it’s not something that will be released without a WHOLE lot of prodding, from either Congress or a Federal court.

Doug Sterner

In answer to the question of downgrades, I’m only aware of two MOH nominations downgraded: Peralta’s nomination downgraded to the NX, and David Bellavia’s MOH nomination downgraded to the SS. BOTH should have received the MOH. Cashe’s commander, now a BG, realized he made a mistake and has spent the last 8 years trying to get Cashe’s SS upgraded to the MOH. Anyone interested, email me and I’ll send you a stunning packet that includes endorsements by three General Officers for awarding him the MOH. A couple interesting facts…read into them what you will: • 80 MOHs have been awarded in the last 14 years. ONLY 16 Of them were awarded for actions in the current wars. • The War in Iraq is the ONLY war in history (except for the Gulf War in 1991 where NO MOHs were awarded), not to produce a single LIVING MOH recipient. • The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the only wars in our history (except the Gulf War), not to have a single BLACK MOH recipient. (And if you think that is because none earned it, read about Alwyn Cashe.) Further, while ethnic minorities earned nearly a quarter of the Service Crosses, only one of the 16 GWOT recipients can claim to be even partially ethnic minority. • Combat KIAs in GWOT are 15% of what they were in Vietnam. (Those numbers would be even higher except for advances in evacuation and medicine that have enable medical personnel to save many who… Read more »

Just An Old Dog

Some interesting commentary. One theory I have about there being fewer MOHs awarded is that our armed forces have become very effective in using supporting arms in eliminating the enemy.
While there has been up close and personal fighting you see a lot of gunships taking out insurgents.
A platoon commander who calls in air or artillery isn’t considered as “heroic” as one who leads an assault on an enemy position.
As far as “quotas” for bravery, its preposterous. Its not like your doing an IG inspection and the top 10% get an AAM. Every man in a fireteam could go well above and beyond the call of duty.


Amen to SFC Cashe being fully and truly deserving of our highest and most distinguished combat honor.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived…”