Recognizing the Medal of Honor

While there are current arguments that the Medal of Honor has become a posthumous event only, sometimes bureaucracy (and stupidity, we won’t talk about the TSA here) is in the way of honoring those who have been awarded the Medal of Honor. It turns out in Oregon, there is only one Medal of Honor recipient, so it would cost too much to make a special license plate (the minimum is 500 people per year to get a plate).

Oregon’s only living recipient of the Medal of Honor is 86 and, before he dies, he wants a special Oregon license plate to mark his service.

A state agency says the price would be steep, so legislators have stepped in with a bill to allow Medal of Honor plates for Robert Maxwell and others like him as they are honored.

The medal is the nation’s highest military honor, awarded by Congress for the risk of life in combat beyond the call of duty. Washington and California are among states with similar laws.

Maxwell has been trying for years to get the plate.

More than three years ago, the Oregon Department of Transportation told him that he’d have to pay $18,000, fill out an application and guarantee 500 new customers a year.

Maxwell’s supporters got the Portland company that makes Oregon plates to hammer out a special set, but the state wouldn’t allow him to use them.

Legislator in Oregon are doing the right thing and are correcting this situation.

On a related note, Bruce Crandall, 74, of Port Orchard WA, will receive our nation’s highest award for valor on Monday for actions during the Vietnam War (41 years LATE). But it gets worse.

Back in America, Arlene Crandall was facing her own struggles. She was raising their three sons in a country where opponents to the war were becoming increasingly strident. She said a teacher refused to teach her oldest son when he learned the boy’s father was fighting in Vietnam.

“I was on the principal’s desk the next morning,” she said. “Those are the kinds of things that happened back then.”

Those reactions to America’s military are what make the Medal of Honor so special to Crandall. He says soldiers appear to be held in more esteem today, despite what one thinks of the conflict they are in. In the 1960s, he hid his uniform from view when he returned home. On Monday, he said, he will wear it with pride.

“This will probably help veterans be a little prouder of the fact that they did what their country asked and realize that we’re still there and being recognized,” he said.

41 years later, that is. Over at The Volokh Conspiracy, there is an interesting series on how some are trying to rewrite history and say no soldiers were spit upon on their return to the USA from Vietnam.

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Richard Gardner
About Richard Gardner
Richard Gardner is a “retired” Navy Submarine Officer with military policy, arms control, and budgeting experience. He contributed over 100 pieces to OTB between January 2004 and August 2008, covering special events. He has a BS in Engineering from the University of California, Irvine.