Unheralded Medal of Honor Winners?

Mark at Liberty Just In Case contrasts the mainstream press’ treatment of past Medal of Honor recepients with that of SFC Paul R. Smith, who earned the award posthumously for bravery in Iraq.

Now, name the winner of the Medal of Honor on April 4, 2003…got it yet? No Search allowed. Come on. It was in all the papers, and recieved wall to wall coverage on all the Cable News networks when the awards ceremony occured last March. Chris Matthews had the family on Hardball. The Today show had them on, and Good Morning America did a special tribute to him. His picture and the story was the above the fold headline in The New York Times, The Washington Post and all the other papers…

Wait. None of that happened. The MSM didn’t give the story that kind of attention. At all. And still hasn’t.

Now, I agree that Smith’s name has not been honored in the same way that, say, Alvin York’s or Audie Murphy’s was. Still, the story was covered in the New York Times and by the AP that I know of, since I blogged on it at the time and quoted their stories. Further, I am sure the award ceremony was televised because I saw it.

I don’t have access to LexusNexus so the following may be inaccurate. Relying on the website archives, though:

As to why Smith has not received the acclaim accorded York and Murphy, several explanations come to mind. Mark would point to the fact that the mainstream press supported WWII and have largely not supported this one. That is almost certainly part of the explanation. Indeed, the heroes of Korea and Vietnam don’t exactly come tripping off the tongue either, do they?

But there’s more to it than that. For one thing, Smith was killed in action while Murphy and York came home alive. Surely, a live Medal of Honor winner would be seen on television with some regularity even today.

Moreover, we simply live in a more cynical age. With the exception of post-9/11 firefighters, it is hard to think of any heroes that have received univeral acclaim. There are pseduo heroes aplenty–whether champion athletes, political whistleblowers, or what have you–but none that have the unreserved acclaim of a WWII Medal winner. Indeed, there would almost surely be some enterprising Woodward and Bernstein wannabes trying to dig up dirt on a York or a Murphy were they around today. That’s just the nature of our society.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. cas says:

    Thatâ??s just the nature of our society
    That says it all, doesn’t it? A genuine hero, one who gave his life so that others may live, is cynically disregarded by the MSM, because they do not believe the cause he fought for is just. How pathetic…
    I honor SFC Smith, as I also honor his brothers and sisters in arms, who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us. G-d Bless his wife and family; if I remember correctly, his wife is a naturalized German-American. She is surely aware of the price of freedom.

  2. BWE says:

    It is too bad that we aren’t telling his and many other stories from the mideast in a front page story. Unfortunately, the press is too busy reporting on the administration’s pervasive corruption or complying with the administration in not reporting on the war or the corruption at all.

    Even though this is a war for oil, halliburton and military hegemony, the soldiers are still our soldiers and they are in harms way. It is even more tragic really because we are all caught up in the corruption of our administration and are running the risk of creating a situation where we blame the soldiers.
    It’s nice to mention him in these articles.But marginalizing his and other’s stories makes it harder and harder to be able to face up to what our leaders are doing to us.

  3. floyd says:

    james; great insight,thanks

  4. ken says:

    There are pseduo heroes aplentyâ??whether champion athletes, political whistleblowers, or what have youâ??but none that have the unreserved acclaim of a WWII Medal winner.

    James, I once saw a traffic accident on the freeway where the driver was trapped inside a burning car. Since I was the first one on the scene I approached the car to open the door to try to get the guy out but was driven back by the flames. A young twentysomething, the driver of the other car involved in the accident, went and pulled the guy out through the window of the car. He must have suffered at least second degree burns, his whole right side was bright red. He refused to go to the hospital with the fire department ambulance because he did not have insurance and would not be able to pay for it. He called his mother on a borrowed cell phone instead.

    He is what you would call a pseduo hero. Thank God they are, as you say ‘aplenty’. And you are right he never did recieve any unreserved acclaim, from anyone.

  5. McGehee says:

    He is what you would call a pseduo hero.

    Ken, you are full of $#!t. Where does James say anything about people who risk their lives to save other people’s lives, calling them “pseudo-heroes?”

    The only one doing that is you, you son of a bitch.

  6. Herb says:


    You must remember thet Ken was a draft dodger. He never served a single hour of his life in service of our country. Ken is one who Takes, Takes, Takes, and gives nothing but his ultra left verbage here on OTB. In reality, Ken is a coward by letting everyone else do his fighting and dying for him so he can bask himself in his own self serving swill.