Despite taking place in an age of seemingly limitless information, the Global War on Terror (GWOT) has spawned a paucity of stories on the topics of heroic action and courage under fire. Regardless of whether this has been the result of honest, unfortunate oversight, or a byproduct of the “if it bleeds, it leads” mindset of a sensationalist 24-hour media apparatus which seems willing only to report the bad news from the various fronts in the War on Terror, the fact remains that there are no grand tales being told of modern Audie Murphies, Jimmy Doolittles, Pappy Boyingtons, Bill Pitsenbargers, or Bud Days, despite the fact that the nation — and a significant amount of her soldiers — is at war. This is not a new phenomenon; even the most recent pre-GWOT recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor — Army sergeants Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon, who were killed in Mogadishu in 1993 — are hardly household names. However, the high-profile nature of the War on Terror should mean that more such tales reach the living rooms of Americans who are hungry for more than the ordinary doom-and-gloom fare offered throughout the 24-hour news cycle.
This lack of reported stories of heroism on the part of America’s fighting men and women is not due to a lack of media access to the military. On the contrary, Operation Iraqi Freedom has seen a new era of access for journalists with the advent of the Department of Defense’s media embed program. Likewise, the lack of relevant reportage is not because there has been a deficiency in individual gallantry displayed on the field of battle; there have been numerous cases of exceptional courage under fire to this point in the War on Terror, and there will doubtless be many more before this conflict has drawn to a close.
Every man and woman fighting for America deserves respect and acknowledgment. There are some, though, who go above and beyond even the bravery and valor shown by the “average” soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who puts his or her life on the line day in and day out in defense of America and in pursuit of the nation’s goals. Here is a selection of four exceptional warriors — one from each branch of service — whose names and deeds every man, woman, and child should know. Each of these men is a true hero in every sense of the word, having fought in defense of America, and having made the ultimate sacrifice for their mission and for their fellow men.