May 16th, 2012
06:01 PM ET

Overheard on Who deserves a Medal of Honor?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

A teary-eyed Rose Mary Sabo Brown accepted the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama at a ceremony Tuesday that commemorated the dying act of her husband, Army Spc. Leslie Sabo Jr., during the Vietnam War.

The bestowal of the military’s highest award 42 years after Sabo sacrificed his own life in a spray of enemy fire and two grenade blasts in Cambodia, saving the lives of his fellow servicemen, sparked an emotional conversation among readers who had this to say:

The Medal of Honor: What is it?

Some readers said they thought Sabo deserved the honor.

Westsacvoice: “Touching story about a foot soldier's sacrifice and efforts that helped save a lot of his comrades. We need more of these types of folks and not just in the military.”

Others questioned what merits a military award.

Bob: “Now this is a REAL honor - not like those other awards they give to anyone who stumbles and gets a skinned knee, just because it happened in a ‘war zone.’ ”

Redeye Dog: "Military medals all have their place in recognizing the sacrifices of men and women who, although may have only ‘skinned their knee’ in a ‘war zone,’ they did so knowing their step forward was one most others would not take in harm's way. The fact is, medals serve people like you more than they serve the people whom they are awarded to.”

Transcript: Obama's remarks at Medal of Honor ceremony

Some readers question the meaning of a hero.

Venus52 8: "Why do they call people in the military heroes? I am kinda getting ill of the word. [I don't know] why, but I am. They always use these coined phrases that get on your nerves after awhile. Just call them by their name. Then we can decide if they are a hero or not. Some people come out of the military and kill their spouse or something terrible or the local park ranger or ... "

caneve: "I'm not sure if you're understanding the fact that 1) This soldier wasn't a paper pusher. He was an infantryman 2) He went above and beyond the call of duty. His actions that day are what coins him a hero, not just because he was in the military. Maybe one day you'll be able to grasp this concept."

What makes a hero?

 A service member: "The Medal of Honor isn't an award you seek. You aren't ‘brave’ or ‘heroic’ because you want to be. Medal of Honor recipients are folks who found themselves in a bad situation, and the odds were badly against them and odds are they died dealing with it. Those that survived did so by the grace of God, and the award of the Medal of Honor is the very least the country can do to acknowledge the impossible situations that the recipients faced.”

Mark: "A friend of mine who is retired military (and knows/knew many men who won TONS of medals for bravery) told me one time what his definition of a hero is ... he said a hero is someone smart enough to come up with a plan during combat, just crazy or stupid enough to put it into action, and lucky enough to survive the endeavor. Now I say this not to demean our service men and women, I have the utmost respect for all of them ... what I am trying to say is that most of the time when a serviceman (or woman) performs some heroic act, it isn't because they have thought ‘Oh I can get a medal for this!’ it's because their instincts took over and they made a conscious decision to think of someone other than themselves.”

Despite the disagreements over what constitutes a hero or a heroic act, many agreed that our country’s military men and women deserve our gratitude and respect in times of war and in peace.

Nelson: "So many brave men and woman who gave their all in a country that didn't honor them. Still let's honor them not just in war but in peace. Being in the military doesn't get the pay nor honor sadly as people in sports do. Many service members who died in war may not have saved someone's life in order to receive this honor but in doing so they helped and honored our/my country. These people were brothers, sisters, husbands, fathers - just plain people ask to do something more only a few dare to do! From my heart - ‘THANK YOU.’"

Are you a veteran? Who was a hero in your unit, or what kind of heroic action hav you witnessed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or sound off on video.

Compiled by the moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Military • Overheard on
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Mary

    It takes practice EVERY day. 🙂 I saw saywhat on the "mashup" blog

    May 16, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    Who deserves the Medal of Honor?
    Leslie Sabo.

    I read the original thread that these exerpts were taken from, and I feel the strongest about the one Mark wrote.
    A hero just flat-out jumps into action, without thinking what kind of recognition s/he may attain...

    That our Vietnam Vets are finally getting the honor and thanks for their service is a long time coming.
    They didn't deserve being reviled for serving in a war they had no choice but to fight in...
    My deepest respect goes to them, as it does for all of our decent, altruistic sercice personnel.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bob Ham

    When I was in Vietnam(twice) combat medics and dustoff pilots were our heros. Col. David Hackworth was a true hero.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. sirrahad

    My work takes me occasionally to Arlington National Cemetery, and although I've been there many times, it never fails to move me to see the final resting places of tens of thousands of Americans who did their parts, big and small, to defend the interests of this country, for little pay, little recongnition, and often little respect from the millions of us who do nothing more in that regard than grudgingly pay our taxes.

    May 16, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. J A D

    The man deserved the MOH, but wonder why the paperwork was lost for 43 years? Politicians seem to love using the word "heroes" , but now many are advocating reducing funds for the VA. Seems like the "heroes" cost too much after they have been screwed up in combat. Of course, the professional politicians are unknowing as well as un- caring, since most have never been in uniformed military service. What a pathetic situation.

    May 16, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. andy

    Courage doesn't mean you aren't scared, it means that you go anyway. I feel that 'hero' is a word used by politicians to describe a man who displays courage in a situation that most politicians could neve even fathom. It's a way for them to try and showboat and show that they respect our troops, all the while they are trying to cut funding for veterans and funding for the equipment and training that could save the lives of Soldiers in combat zones. Having received my share of decorations in Iraq, I can say for myself and my friends that the medals are nice, but we'd be much more appreciative if our politicians made sure that our Soldiers got the equipment and training that they deserve and the treatment and assistance that they need when their leave the service.

    I wish that politicians would stop trying to showboat for the public and instead would do what we in the military do and get the job done. I'd much rather see politicians address our grossly over-spending Federal government and secure a safe, prosperous financial future for our nation than see them handing our awards and decorations on TV.

    February 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Steve

    The common denominator of every deserving recipient of a valorous medal is that none of them feel they deserve it and all of them would give it back if they could erase that day from ever happening.

    August 21, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dave

    John Kerry doesn't

    August 21, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. MIKEF

    Yes...I am a veteran. All veterans are "hero's". It is those who give their utmost who are the "utmost hero's"

    March 18, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bcaarms

    The word is misused daily by the media. The word therefore loses its intended meaning. Stop using it to with everyday soldiers that do their job. Definitely stop using it with Senior Officers that have abused their position yet still are looked upon with praise due to wearing the uniform.
    To me a hero is reserved to be bestowed upon the individuals by their peers that they saved. It is not something to be reviewed by a bunch of people far removed from the situation, and then if they decide they are worthy, hang a medal around their neck. It’s much more personal than that to me.

    March 19, 2014 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
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