FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- "A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers." -- John F. Kennedy

We recently conducted a memorial service on Fort Jackson to honor Medal of Honor recipient retired Master Sgt. John Baker so that we could pay our final respects to an American hero who was also an active, contributing member of our local community.

John Baker, who passed away Jan. 20, would have been part of the group of Medal of Honor recipients who will be our guests at Fort Jackson for several days next week. He would have joined fellow Vietnam-era Medal of Honor recipients Bruce P. Crandall, Alfred V. Rascon, Walter Marm and Robert M. Patterson, as well as 2010 Medal of Honor recipient Salvatore A. Giunta, who received the MoH recently for his actions in Afghanistan -- all of whom are scheduled to honor us with their presence and interaction next week.

This four-day visit to Fort Jackson has been in the planning stages for quite some time. It is the result of a dedicated effort by the 193rd Infantry Brigade, which arranged this visit so that our Soldiers and leaders can learn from observing and listening to these men, whose acts of courage are forever immortalized by the decorations they wear and the lives they have enriched. The visiting MoH recipients will have opportunities to experience Family Day, graduation and a number of other functions throughout the week.

I am eagerly looking forward to next week's events. I am a great believer in military role models as well as being a student of our military history. Soldiers benefit immensely when they are given the opportunities to connect with history personally through the Soldiers who made it. This type of interaction helps build resiliency, particularly when Soldiers understand and internalize the courage and sacrifice that each of these MoH recipients has demonstrated. This promises to be a truly inspirational week. For more on the visit and the visitors, see the story on the front page of this week's Leader.

The Medal of Honor is the epitome of military recognitions -- there is no higher award, nor one as awe-inspiring, or sobering. The medal is awarded for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty in combat against an enemy of our country. The standards for the award are so high that by their very nature, the majority of Medals of Honor bestowed since 1941 have been awarded posthumously. There is a long, comprehensive approval process that eventually requires the president's signature before the medal is awarded.

But most of the nominations fall far short of the Oval Office. Consider that in the slightly more than 150 years since the inception of the award, there have only been 3,458 recipients of the medal. Only 10 Medals of Honor have been issued for heroism in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared to 248 in Vietnam, 136 in Korea and 465 during World War II.

Of the 10 Medals of Honor issued for the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, seven of those were issued posthumously. Besides Salvatore A. Giunta, the other living recipients from our country's two most recent conflicts are: Sergeant 1st Class Leroy Petry, who lost his hand tossing an enemy grenade away from two fellow Soldiers in Afghanistan in 2008; and the most recent MoH recipient Dakota Meyer, who received the award last fall from President Barack Obama for saving 36 lives in operations in Afghanistan in 2009.

If you are interested in learning more about the medal's history, there's a lot that can be found at the Medal of Honor Museum in Charleston. The museum is located on the hangar deck of the USS Yorktown at Patriot's Point and is operated by the Medal of Honor Society.

Again, it is truly an honor and a privilege for Fort Jackson to host these Medal of Honor recipients. Please take the opportunity next week to meet and learn from these great Americans. As I do, I'm sure you'll find them to be among the most humble, dedicated and selfless individuals you will ever meet.

Army Strong and Victory Starts Here!

Page last updated Thu February 9th, 2012 at 10:44