Medal of Honor

In bestowing the medal, the president paid tribute to Sergeant Carter for his courageous actions in October 2009 while serving as a cavalry scout with Bravo Troop in the 61st Calvary Regiment during combat operations in the Kamdesh District of Afghanistan. During the ferocious battle, Carter rescued a fellow soldier and carried him through a hail of bullets, unarmed. On that day nearly 300 insurgents, armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, surrounded the outpost. The battle left eight American soldiers dead and wounded more than 25 others. It was the deadliest day for U.S. forces in the war effort that year.

“It’s the story of what our troops do for each other,” Obama said. “He displayed the essence of true heroism.”

Carter’s Medal of Honor comes at a significant year in the Medal’s history. A century-and-a-half ago, Congress created this special recognition of great personal bravery and self-sacrifice. The Medal of Honor was established to commemorate members of the military for their acts of valor, and is renowned as the highest distinction the United States can present to a military member. Under the standards established by Congress, there must be incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct. In the 150 years since the Medal of Honor was established, it has been presented to only 3,460 individuals serving in the U.S. Armed Services.

There are only 79 living recipients of the Medal, 48 of whom will be in Gettysburg, Pa. September 18 through 22 for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s annual convention. Gettysburg was chosen for this occasion as the year 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, from which 63 Medals were awarded and President Lincoln recited the Gettysburg Address.

The convention will honor the Medal’s recipients for their exceptional valor and courage at the hallowed site that has become a national shrine for heroism. It also will be the backdrop for these national heroes to instill in future generations the exemplary values of courage, sacrifice, selflessness and patriotism. Every recipient is committed to serving their communities through education outreach instilling the importance of character development, courage and selfless service.

In summing up the spirit behind this historic event, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Harold (Hal) Arthur Fritz, also a Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War, said: “We continue to recognize their heroism not only to remind us of the sacrifices made to keep our country free, but to show examples to the next generation of Americans about what it takes to protect our future.”

In speaking to Carter’s children last week week, Obama said: “If you want to know what makes our country truly great, if you want to know what a true American hero looks like, then you don’t have to look far. You just have to look at your dad.”

I couldn’t agree more; it’s the men wearing the Medal and the values they embody that make this country great. Perhaps we could all learn a little from them.

Monahan is president and CEO of the 2013 Congressional Medal of Honor Society Convention.