September 12, 2006

Acknowledging A Hero

In the comments on my Rememberance Post, Skip points to his post where he asks:

In my opinion, if he had been serving in the military on September 11, 2006, for giving his life so others might live, he would have earned The Congressional Medal of Honor. I hereby call upon The Congress of the United States to make such changes to statute as are necessary to make uniformed first responders eligible for all military decorations for courage, at all times when The United States of America is at war, and the response of the first responders can be construed as a part of that war.

I was going to leave a comment for him, but decided this deserved its own post.

Naturally I am looking at this from a civilian standpoint, I have always been a civilian. I hope any military readers I have will comment and tell us what they think... but here's my view.

The short answer is... No, I don't believe that civilians should be given military decorations.

The longer answer would involve the "why" of it.

It has nothing at all to do with the bravery of the police and fire department personel - I think they are very brave indeed to take on the job in the first place. And they will risk their lives in dangerous situations to protect people. But they are different from our military in many fundamental ways. So if they were to receive a special tribute, it should be one that is a tribute specifically for civilian acts of heroism - and they are out there!

The HUGE difference between the heroic acts of the fire and police personel and the men who have been awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic actions during time of war, is (of course) the venue of the rescue.

When the rescue teams streamed into the Towers five years ago, they were there specifically to rescue as many people as possible, even at the risk of their own lives. However, I am certain none of them was even remotely concerned about being killed by the civilians trying to get out of the building or anyone surrounding the building. They didn't have to carry in rescue equipment AND fighting equipment. They could concentrate on the rescue efforts without considering that an enemy would kill them before they had a chance to effect a rescue or that an enemy would try to kill their fellow rescue workers in the middle of their work. That is the situation a soldier faces every time they go into a war zone.

Just watch the movie Blackhawk Down and try to imagine how the rescue workers might have attempted to get those people out of the Towers if they were surrounded by armed citizenry outside the WTC complex (a la the armed rioters in Mogadishu), waiting for people to leave the building and shooting them on their way out the door! Or even attempting to kill the rescuers on their way IN the door. Imagine if the FDNY had needed to set up barricades and firing lines, just to get their rescue teams into the building. Because we live in America and this is a pretty safe country, no one would even think of such a thing happening at a place like the WTC complex.

That the civilian rescuers are brave even to the point of sacrificing their welfare for that of the people they are helping, is not in doubt. That there should be a very high honor to present to such people, absolutely.

But not the military Medal of Honor. The situations are not analogous and the honors should remain separate.

Posted by: Teresa in Life Stuff at 07:55 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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1 Skip I chose Blackhawk Down because it's a point of reference for most people non-military as far as medal of honor action goes. What I was trying to show by way of using the movie is that the actions of military MoH are under fire - so you have the the 1) people who need saving 2) the guys shooting at you 3) and the guy who gets the job done.

In any case, it's hard not to get Schmalzy for the men and women who did their job and died doing it. I don't know if there was a special award given to those people, but there should have been. It should have been a special proclamation from Congress with a special medal created for each of them and given to the families. Perhaps there was and I missed it in all the other stuff that was going on.

Posted by: Teresa at September 12, 2006 12:13 PM (o4pJS)

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