03. The Politics of the Medal of Honor (ft. Doug Sterner)

On this episode, we talk about military awards for heroism. They’ve been around for almost as long as the republic itself, dating back to George Washington’s Badge of Military Merit, first awarded in 1782. Their granted judiciously and closely policed to retain their value and meaning. The nation’s highest award for battlefield heroism, the Medal of Honor, has a mystique all its own. While the lower awards, including the Bronze Star, Silver Star and service crosses, can be awarded simply for acts of exceptional bravery, the Medal of Honor signifies life-saving heroism at great risk to one’s own life. In fact, many Medals of Honor are awarded posthumously. To be approved, Medal of Honor accounts must have an eyewitness, and they must meet the most stringent legal standard available: beyond a reasonable doubt. Even so, the process of awarding these medals can be subjective and political, and there are a number of service members who may not have gotten the recognition they deserve, among them names like Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Cpl. Waverly Woodson from World War II. To dive into the history and politics of military heroism, today we’re talking to the undisputed foremost expert on the topic: Doug Sterner, creator of the Hall of Valor.

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