You Want a Medal of What?

It’s customary for troops to gather around a “cherry” who has just arrived and welcome him to the squad. Other than the on-the-job-training he would get in the field, this usually meant having a serious “welcome to hell” session in the hootch on his first night. We soon learned what appeared to be an apprehensive look on his face was actually something just this side of insanity.

We were only getting short, one-word answers about home, family, etc., when out-of-the-blue he said very deliberately and succinctly, “I am only here to get the Medal of Honor.” All you had to do was look in his eyes and you knew he was serious. Most of us quietly retreated to our own bunk area.

It didn’t take long to realize this guy was serious. On his first patrol, he volunteered for “point” and would do so for every mission. “Point” just wasn’t something you volunteered for. I remember a particular mission when we were accompanied by a scout dog. The dog picked up a scent and the platoon leader asked for a volunteer to conduct some short range recon. Our “hero” quickly volunteered, stripped off his steel pot, extracted his bayonet and placed it crossways in his mouth, ripped a couple of grenades from his belt, and positioned himself to start off into the bush. The platoon leader did a double-take, realized what was happening and tactfully explained that the recon needed to be conducted in a more “controlled” fashion.

The moral of this true story: you feel a lot more comfortable with a real hero than one who is self-proclaimed.