Adm. Mike Mullen speaks in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Medal of Honor.
Thirty of the 85 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, along with their families, joined the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior service leaders in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, where their names are engraved on wall hangings among the 3,454 recipients. Today’s military leaders thanked the veterans for their service — most rendered decades ago — while an Army band played military marches, “America the Beautiful” and other patriotic songs before the ceremony.
“For those of us who serve, and have had the opportunity to meet many of you, we marvel at your service, marvel at your dedication, and marvel at your caring,” said Mullen, who stood nearby U.S. and service-branch flags and over-sized replicas of the Navy, Army and Air Force versions of the medal.
The Medal of Honor recipients serve as mentors to the nation’s service members and are a bridge between the military and civilian communities, Mullen said. “Your help in connecting us to the American people is a very important endeavor,” he said.
Mullen called the characteristics that embody the medal recipients –- honor, sacrifice, and service –- “iconic and quintessentially American.” President Abraham Lincoln sought and received an act of Congress to create the Medal of Honor during the Civil War, Mullen said, noting the medal came from “one of the darkest chapters in American history, and from the man credited with saving” the United States.
The medal is “bestowed on the bravest of the brave for the most selfless and noble acts ever witnessed on the battlefield,” Mullen said. It is the most democratic of awards, he added, having no regard for rank, race or class of recipients. More than half of its recipients did not survive the battle for which it was earned, he said.
“These heroes –- and I do not use that word lightly -– have demonstrated how just one American can not only make a difference, but can often make history,” Mullen said.
“We give thanks that here, today, we live in a country where brave young Americans are still willing to give their all in defense of our nation,” the chairman said. He noted that the 10 years that today’s military has been at war is the longest period of war in American history.