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. t3chsupport

    Being brave does not mean you don't have fear. Bravery having great fear, and fighting through it anyway. Bravery in the name of saving others is always heroic, whether it's taking bullets for your brothers, or diving into freezing waters to save a life. Those same actions without fear is not bravery, but recklessness. Real bravery is always honorable.

    May 16, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ed

    Glad to see him get the recognition that he deserves even if it is 40 years too late. When I was in the Army, I saw people get awards they didn't deserve because they "knew" the "right" people. But far too often, I saw people not get the awards they deserved because someone was too lazy to write it up or they ticked off the wrong person in the chain-of-command. During one Reforger in Germany, everyone who came over from the US got at least an Army Commendation Medal; the people who did all the work in Germany didn't get as much as a thank you.

    May 16, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. George

    Heros are not planned, they just happen. I am a Vietnam Vet (USMC Grunt), and I salute Spec Sabo it is long overdue.
    The way medals are "handed out today in the military" is sicking, there is no honor left anymore.

    May 16, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. davidmeuse

    Regarding this brave man, I as so saddened by the comments I have read on the web. The guy was drafted, he could have went to Canada, or prison. He went and served. People these days don't understand what it was like to live in the draft days. What is was like to live in a war zone while knowing most people in the states didn't reallly care if he lived or died. He just knew he those around him depended on him.

    He was an honorable man ahd deserves our respect and admiration.

    May 16, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      AMEN to your statement.

      May 16, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sammie

    But would I want my wife receiving the award from Obama, the only unpatriotic president in history? Clearly, we can remember him refusing to salute the flag. My dad served in WWII, and he would feel the same way.

    May 16, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • EJ in Metro Houston

      PLEASE tell us when President Obama REFUSED to salute the American flag. This sounds like another right wing myth you Obama-haters like to spout. I wasn't a big fan of President Bush at all BUT I did respect him as POTUS and if he were to have given me a medal of honor for say my dad I would be very proud to accept it. People like you need to get a real life,

      May 16, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus in MN

      Your comment is completely untrue and inappropriate to the content of the story. You are repeating garbage that has been clearly refuted elsewhere. Why don't you go for broke and accuse him of being an unpatriotic kenyan muslim socialist president? Get it all off your chest.

      May 16, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • ussenterprise

      Those in uniform salute the flag. All others is hand over heart.

      August 22, 2013 at 8:57 am | Report abuse |
  6. Bob

    It was a sad time when you didn't want to wear your uniform when you walked through the airports because people would shun you, or spit on you. I am so glad to see our guys and gals today get respect. I spent 23 years in the military, was awarded several decorations including two bronze stars, and believe me, those medals were the last thing on your mind when the smelly stuff hit the fan.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Elena G. Hernandez

    I don't have a prolife photo, because I don't uaually makes comments online, but whilel was in Taiwan, l got request for assorted numbers of body bags and alumnium boxes for the remains. Then when l went to veitnam tdy, l saw flatbed semis carrrying coffins 3 high,3 across and eight the length of the bed, to me all those on the trucks were heroes, l was there for 3 months with a top secret clearance. I don't know if that had any effect on my service, but the V.A. calls me a liar, saying l never was in veitman, even tho l sent them photos and a letter from my sister telling them when l was there, its not enough proof for them. I was called a baby killer in the late 1980s by a fellow veteran who served in the navy in the 80s. that hurt more than civilians calling me that. thanks for letting me get that off my chest and mind.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |

      There were many of us who spent many months tdy time in vietnam and there are no records of it. All you see is that you were overseas but no location except your permenant base assignment. Mine was Clark AFB PI,

      May 16, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. cd

    Nice Honor for a Brave Man who was lost in the Government system,wonderful story of true LOVE!

    May 16, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Eve

    My father served in Vietnam and my brother served in Iraq, and thankfully both of them came home. But they each joined the military of their own accord-not because they had to (though he grew up in the U.S., my father was Canadian by birth and went anyways!)-and that, in itself, is heroic to me.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Philip

    Who should get a medal of honor? Any soldier that doesn't commit war crimes, in my opinion.
    We still have The Hague dealing with war criminals even today. How many American troops have been charged with war crimes and must face The Hague? Or did not one US soldier even committed a war crime in these decade long wars?

    May 16, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mekongdelta

    If you run up that hill and die killing the enemy you get medal of honor, run up that same hill and die? Just another casualty? How is is less heroic of the guy that dies and is not successful? THINK ABOUT THAT!

    May 16, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Philip

    My grandfather (a devout racist, RIP) served as a US Navy Commodore during WWII. Yes, he was on the USS Arizona when it sunk at Pearl Harbor. My father (also racist) served in the Navy for 8 yrs. (Chief Petty Officer) My uncle Ivan served alongside his best friend...both joined the "buddy program" where small town hicks were allowed to join and stay together to lessen the liklihood of being overly intimidated from being away from a small town for the first time. Ivan's first day of combat (Alaska)...his buddy got his head shot off right next to Ivan, and my uncle freaked out. On the long trainride home, he unknowingly took a puff off of what he was told was a ciggarette to calm his was marijuanna. He freaked out again and beat the sh/t out of an officer. 10 yrs. in Levenworth prison...never was the same again. RIP Uncle Ivan. Sorry yer mom was a ho-bag just like mine.
    Me? They tried to recruit me right out of HS. Based on my love for Jesus and family war history, said no-thanks.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Philip

    ...and if I had been born in Germany, I would have told Nazi recruiters the same thing; no thanks. Of course I would have been thrown into a Fatherland Security Prison.(concentration camps built to house the "thousands of terrorists" Hitler promised to arrest and bring to justice for burning down the Reichstag Parliment Building) But at least the blood of American christians wouldn't be on my hands.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Philip

    I also had two other uncles that served in 'Nam. Gene came back ok, but Jerry never was the same again. He and i used to really enjoy working on our ranch all day and then go have a few beers. Jerry was quite the ladies man. When he got back home, he wouldn't even leave the ranch or even drink one beer for about 15 yrs. One day I purched a 6-pack of tall can Olympia beer (his fav) and we went down to the Gunnison river and did some fishing. Never in all these yrs. has he uttered one single word about what happened in 'Nam. He's still mostly reclusive even today.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Philip

    @Mary. Easy for a girl to say. LOL 🙂

    May 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
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