Words Fail


Memorial Day has come upon us once again, with so many still in harm’s way. We hope that you will attend the ceremonies held to honor those who have given that last full measure of devotion for their country. It is a small thing, to go and stand in the sunlight to remember them, to honor them, to thank them. And if you doubt that heroes still live, no matter how muddled the war, consider this brief summary of the posthumous Medals of Honor awarded by Congress in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Corporal Jason Dunham, Marines: Iraq, 2007

On a reconnaissance mission in Karabilah Dunham’s anti-Armor team moved to support an ambushed convoy. Under fire, he led his team several blocks south of the ambushed convoy and stopped seven Iraq vehicles for a search. An insurgent jumped out of a truck and Corporal Dunham wrested him to the ground. When the insurgent unpinned a grenade, Dunham warned his comrades and covered the grenade with his helmet and body.

Private 1st Class Ross A. McGinnis, Army, Iraq, 2008

Private McGinnis was manning his M2 .50-caliber machine gun when an enemy fragmentation grenade fell through the gunner’s hatch into the vehicle. Reacting quickly, he yelled “grenade,” allowing all four members of his crew to prepare for the grenade’s blast. Then, rather than leaping from the gunner’s hatch to safety, Private McGinnis covered the live grenade, pinning it between his body and the vehicle and absorbing most of the explosion.

Petty Officer Michael Monsoor, Navy Seal, Iraq, 2008

While providing rooftop cover for his unit while under attack, Petty Officer Monsoor took position with his machine gun between two teammates on an outcropping of the roof. An insurgent threw a hand grenade from an unseen location, which bounced off Petty Officer Monsoor’s chest and landed in front of him. Although only he could have escaped the blast, Monsoor threw himself onto the grenade, saving the lives of his two teammates.

Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith, Army, Iraq, 2005

Sgt. Smith’s unit came under violent attack by a large enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of more than 100 fellow soldiers, Sgt. Smith quickly organized two platoons in defense. Sgt. Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers. Under withering enemy fire, he manned a .50 caliber machine gun to prevent his unit from being overwhelmed. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers.

Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, Special Forces, 2010

On a patrol in the Gowardesh Valley, Staff Sergeant Miller and his small element engaged a force of 15 to 20 insurgents occupying prepared positions. Sgt. Miller used a turret-mounted grenade launcher while he radioed for close air support. Miller then led a squad toward a steep, narrow valley occupied by a large insurgent force. Exposed to enemy rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapon fire, Sgt. Miller ordered his men back to cover and charged the enemy over exposed ground under overwhelming enemy fire. Shot twice, he ignored the wounds and continued to draw fire from 100 fighters on himself. He again charged to allow his teammates to escape. After killing at least 10 insurgents and wounding dozens more, Sgt. Miller was mortally wounded. He saved 22 U.S. and Afghan soldiers.

Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti, Army, Afghanistan, 2009

On a mission in Nuristan Province, 50 enemy attacked Sgt. Monti’s 16-man patrol. Sgt. Monti set up a defensive position behind a rock formation and called in fire support within 50 meters of his position. At the same time, he personally broke up an effort to flank the patrol with his rifle and a grenade. He then advanced over open ground to reach a wounded soldier. Driven back twice, he was mortally wounded in a third attempt.

Lt. Michael P. Murphy, Navy Seal, Afghanistan 2007

On a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, 40 enemy fighters besieged Lieutenant Murphy’s four-man team. With all four team members wounded, Lt. Murphy demonstrated exceptional composure in leading his men. Unable to get a signal, he fought his way into the open to transmit a call under heavy fire. He reached headquarters and continued transmitting and fighting until he received a mortal wound.


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