I just watched President Obama award the Medal of Honor to Kyle Carpenter. It is awarded, not won. It is not a prize in a contest. It is not a goal to be achieved.The MoH is earned and awarded for exceptional heroism as defined by the degree of selflessness, the magnitude of sacrifice, the heat of passion in the act and the perception of witnesses and those who become aware of it.
There are many who risk their lives for others every day. There are those who bypass relative comfort to devote themselves to the welfare of others. There are many whose very job description requires them to be willing to sacrifice themselves.
I cannot watch such a ceremony without welling up past the point of tears. Kyle’s loss saddens me greatly. Anyone’s great sacrifice in service to another saddens me greatly. And yet, the sacrifice made by one for another gladdens me, encourages me.
What Kyle did wasn’t required. It wasn’t expected. If he dove for cover, rather than to cover, nobody would have criticized him. So what Kyle did, as others have done before him, and others will do in time to come, is to willingly stand for the value of one’s life, welfare, liberty … even the pursuit of happiness. It wasn’t for a cause, a party, a flag or an ideology. It was for a person. It was an act of incredible selflessness for another person or persons. It is what every combatant does every day. It is what every firefighter, law enforcement officer and first responder does every time they report for duty.