WASHINGTON – The military has sent the White House a recommendation to award the Medal of Honor to a soldier for bravery in Afghanistan, which could make him the first living recipient since the Vietnam War.
The Army soldier ran through a hail of enemy fire to repel Taliban fighters in a 2007 battle, saving the lives of a half dozen other men, two U.S. officials said Wednesday. They declined to name the soldier and spoke on condition of anonymity because he is still under consideration for the honor.
There is concern, officials say that early disclosure could place political pressure on President Barack Obama to approve the medal or could cause embarrassment for the soldier if it's not approved.
The nation's highest award for valor has been awarded only six times in the nine years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq — and all were awarded posthumously.
That small number has prompted member of Congress to ask the Pentagon to examine its policy for awarding the medal, a process that can take years and involves several reviews up the chain of command.
Officials have said it's hard to compare the number awarded since the 2001 start of the Afghanistan invasion with the hundreds awarded in World War II and Vietnam because warfare has evolved so much in recent decades.
Those earlier wars frequently involved close conflict with an organized enemy formation, for instance, while today's fighting is against non-uniformed insurgents who use remotely detonated roadside bombs, suicide bombers, sniper attacks and other tactics that avoid the risk of engaging personally with U.S. forces.