A Marine lance corporal received the Silver Star the other day at Camp Lejeune. This was remarkable to me for a couple of reasons.
1) The recipient was a lance corporal, just a couple of rungs from the bottom of the totem pole. Years from now, history books will talk about the generals and admirals who made the strategic and operational decisions over the past decade, but the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have been fought at the company level, with the blood, sweat and tears of privates first class, lance corporals, corporals and sergeants … as well as the staff sergeants, lieutenants and captains who led them. In 2009, a Marine Corps Times article examined the disproportionate number of awards (bronze star and higher) awarded to officers over enlisted. Many probably rated their medals, while others were debatable. Do you deserve a bronze star (with or without a combat distinguishing device) if you never left the FOB?
2) The Marine’s heroic acts on August 17, 2010 in Marjah, Afghanistan were reduced to a mere four paragraphs in an Associated Press story, likely rewritten from a longer story in the local paper, which you can find here. I know AP briefs are supposed to be exactly that – brief; 250 words was my personal guideline while I was a supervisor – but the Cliff’s Notes version cheapened his reckoning.
The Marine, Jeffrey C. Cole II, 21, of Woodstock, Ga., humbly accepted the Silver Star on behalf of those who died in theater. He also credited other Marines on that fateful patrol with saving his life.
The Marine Corps Times published a full account of his ordeal over the weekend, which you can find here. From yet another member of America’s contemporary “Greatest Generation,” this quote stands out:
“It’s not a good feeling that I got that award because I definitely don’t feel like I deserved it. Those Marines saved my life. All of us are alive, really, because of what they did, not because of what I did. I want them to get the recognition, not me.”