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“Drop everything, cross that river, help your brothers.”

It is easy to take valor for granted when you don’t need valor to live, survive or keep from going mad. It is easy to take valor for granted when you are   valorous, trying to save friends and do you job. Those of us who do not need valor to live have no right to take it for granted; those who are immersed in it, who display it to an amazing degree, have no choice but to take it for granted or else they become bullies and fools. We are blessed to have valorous young men and women; we waste them at our peril. We are blessed to have valorous young men and women who step up and do the impossible, the dangerous and the gut-wrenchingly horrible things to serve us. But, they don’t do it for us; they do it for each other, for their friends without thinking and because it’s  what they’re there to do. And, they have the right to be angry at the world that doesn’t comprehend that, and can’t give them back their friends, their limbs, and their ability to sleep calmly, without nightmares and the feeling that they failed their friends who died, who were maimed, who are crazed and demented while they must carry on…the true hero is the one who rejects his own heroism and says that those who are not there are the heroes…

We wasted a lot in the Global War on Terror; blood, treasure, and future. And, as Elizabeth Rubin Brothers describes in her piece in this morning’s New York Times and as Sebastian Junger explains in WAR or shows in RESTOPO, perhaps for nothing except for valor. Certainly, the geopolitical piece has a  major disconnect. Jefferson’s comment about the tree of liberty being watered by the blood of patriots and tyrants may be widely misunderstood…but the valorous water it daily, and we all benefit. They may get a mention, a pension, a medal, but we should all know that they owe us no gratitude for our tokens. We get to sleep safe at the cost of their blood, hearts and memories.

And then Giunta said, “All my feelings are with my friends and they are getting smaller. I have sweat more, cried more, bled more in this country than my own. These people,” he said, meaning the Afghans, “won’t leave this valley. They have been here far before I could fathom an Afghanistan.” “I ran to the front because that is where he was,” Giunta said, talking of Brennan. “I didn’t try to be a hero and save everyone.”

On Tuesday Giunta will become the first living soldier to receive the Medal of Honor since Vietnam. He has said that if he is a hero then everyone who goes into the unknown is a hero. He has said he was angry to have a medal around his neck at the price of Brennan’s and Mendoza’s lives. It took three years for the Pentagon to finalize the award. And it is puzzling to many soldiers and families why the military brass has been so sparing with this medal during the last decade of unceasing warfare. As for the Korengal Valley, Giunta was right. The Korengalis would never leave or give up. Last April, after three more years of killing and dying in that valley, the Americans decided to leave the place to the locals.

The Americans decided to leave the place to the locals…how about that?

If this is a god, and I am comforted today that I do not believe in one, may his blessings shower the valorous, and shame the rest of us who wasted their gift. Giunta’s syllogism is correct with some clarification — if he is a hero, and he is, then everyone who goes into the unknown for his friends, his duty, because it’s his job and he’s good at it, is a hero.

View the original article at Veterans Today

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