The Medal of Honor is the highest honor a United States soldier can receive. Since it was created by an act of Congress in 1861, there have been 3,459 recipients. Approximately 17 percent of those died as a result of their heroic acts and received the medal posthumously. The medal is awarded by the president on behalf of Congress. The following is a gallery of the last ten recipients and a synopsis of their incredible acts of bravery and self-sacrifice.
Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis
Place and Date of Action: Baghdad, Iraq, December 4, 2006
Date of Issue: June 5, 2008
Private McGinnis and his company were patrolling an area of northeast Baghdad in an effort to help calm the intense sectarian violence that was ravishing the city at that time. While serving as a Humvee turret gunner, an insurgent grenade was thrown into the gunner’s hatch. Private McGinnis quickly yelled grenade allowing the four other crew members to protect themselves. Then, instead of jumping out of the hatch to safety, he covered the grenade with his body, sacrificing his life to ensure that all four fellow crew members survived. He was 19 years old.
Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti
Place and Date of Action: Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, June 21, 2006
Date of Issue: September 17, 2009
While on an intelligence gathering mission in Afghanistan, Sergeant James C. Monti and his 16-man patrol were attacked by 50 or more insurgents. Realizing his unit was about to be overrun, he directed his men to a defensive position behind a rock formation. Once at this position, Sergeant Monti called in supporting fire while simultaneously engaging the insurgents with his rifle and a grenade. When he discovered one of his team members was wounded and caught in the open, he made three attempts amidst intense enemy fire to rescue him. On the third attempt Sergeant Monti was mortally wounded. His final words were reported to be, "I've made peace with God. Tell my family that I love them."
Chief Master Sergeant Richard L. Etchberger
Branch: Air Force
Place and Date of Action: Phou Pha Thi, Laos, March 11, 1968
Date of Issue: September 21, 2010
Previously, if a recommendation for a Medal of Honor was not made within three years of the engagement, it required a Congressional override. However, in 2008 Congress passed legislation that eliminated this requirement, and as a result Chief Master Sergeant Richard L. Etchberger was finally awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic acts during the Vietnam War. Master Sergeant Etchberger was not a trained infantryman but a radar technician serving at a top secret installation in Laos when it was attacked by an enemy force. Despite having virtually no combat training, Etchberger held off the attackers with an M-16 while directing air strikes. Amidst heavy enemy fire Sergeant Etchberger was able to load three wounded comrades one-by-one into a rescue basket sent down from a hovering helicopter. After all three men were pulled to safety, Master Sergeant Etchberger was mortally wounded as he was being lifted to the helicopter. Because this radar station was top secret and located in Laos it wasn’t until the incident was declassified decades later that his family found out the actual place and circumstances of his death. Among the attendees at the White House award ceremony in 2010 was one of the men he helped rescue.
Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller
Place and Date of Action: Konar Province, Afghanistan, January 25, 2008
Date of Issue: October 6, 2010
A member of the Army’s famous Green Berets Special Forces group, Sergeant Miller and his team were ambushed by insurgents occupying an elevated and heavily fortified position. Serving as the point man during the engagement and cut-off from his team, Miller ordered them back to a safer position. To help cover their retreat, he charged the enemy position over exposed ground. Despite being shot in the torso he continued to press the attack, drawing fire from the 100 plus insurgent force. After killing 10 or more insurgents and wounding dozens of others, Sergeant Miller was mortally wounded. One of his fellow team members with him that day said, “I would not be alive today if not for his ultimate sacrifice.” He is survived by his mother, father, and seven brothers and sisters.
Staff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta
Place and Date of Action: Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, October 25, 2007
Date of Issue: November 16, 2010
Salvatore Giunta is the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War. During a nighttime patrol Sergeant Giunta and his team were engaged by a highly armed and organized insurgent force. The two lead men on the patrol were immediately struck down by gunfire. When a third was shot in the helmet, Giunta rushed to his assistance, pulled him to safety and began administering medical aid. As he administered aid he was struck by two bullets, one in his body armor while the other shattered the weapon slung around his back. The two wounded lead men of the patrol were now completely cut-off from the rest of the team. Sergeant Ginuta and his team pushed forward amongst intense enemy fire hurling grenades and reaching the first wounded man. While another team member tended to the first lead man’s injuries, Giunta charged ahead to the crest of a hill where he saw two insurgents carrying away the second lead man. Sergeant Giunta killed one of the insurgents and wounded the other, then dragged his wounded comrade to safety while helping him breathe for nearly an hour before the MEDEVAC arrived. Out of the Army since 2011, Giunta has always been reluctant of all the attention he received since the incident. During a 2010 "60 Minutes" interview he stated, "I'm not at peace with that at all. And coming and talking about it and people wanting to shake my hand because of it, it hurts me because it's not what I want. And to be with so many people doing so much stuff and then to be singled out - and put forward. I mean, everyone did something.”
Private First Class Henry Svehla
Place and Date of Action: Pyongony, Korea, June 12, 1952
Date of Issue: May 2, 2011
Thanks to the persistence of Henry Svehla’s nephew, his heroic deeds during the Korean War were given their proper recognition when he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor 58 years after he gave his life for his fellow soldiers. Private Svehla and his platoon were patrolling a strategically important hill to assess enemy troop strength and positions when they were hit with intense enemy fire. Sensing his platoon’s counterattack was in jeopardy, Svehla charged the enemy position hurling grenades and firing his rifle inflicting heavy enemy causalities. During the attack he was seriously wounded in the face by an exploding mortar round. Despite the wound, he refused medical attention and continued leading the attack. When an enemy grenade landed near his fellow platoon members, Private Svehla hurled himself onto it, sacrificing his life for his comrades. His two sisters accepted the medal on his behalf.
Private First Class Anthony T. Kaho’ohanohano
Place and Date of Action: Chupa-ri, Korea, September 1, 1951
Date of Issue: May 2, 2011
During the Korean War, Private Kaho’ohanohano served as the leader of a machine gun squad. On September 1, 1951 while occupying a gun emplacement, his squad was attacked by a much larger enemy force. Kaho’ohanohano ordered his squad back to a more defensible position so they could provide covering fire for another friendly force that was also withdrawing. Despite being wounded in the shoulder during the initial engagement, Private Kaho’ohanohano gathered ammunition and grenades and went back to their gun emplacement. Once there, he single-handedly held off the charging enemy force. When he ran out of ammunition he engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat with his trenching tool until he was finally killed. However, his dogged defense inspired his comrades to launch a counterattack which successfully beat back the enemy. When friendly troops arrived at Private Kaho’ohanohano’s emplacement, they found 11 dead enemy soldiers outside and two more dead inside from his hand-to-hand combat. Initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, his brother and nephew worked for decades to see that he received the military’s highest honor for his service that day.
Staff Sergeant Leroy A. Petry
Place and Date of Action: Paktya Province, Afghanistan, May 26, 2008
Date of Issue: July 12, 2011
Staff Sergeant Leroy Petry is the second living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War. On May 26, 2008, Sergeant Petry and his team of Army Rangers took part in a dangerous day time raid on a courtyard and house that contained possible high value enemy insurgents. During the raid, Petry was shot through both legs, yet still managed to lead himself and another Ranger to cover behind a chicken coop. At the coop, he reported the situation on the ground while engaging the enemy with a hand grenade and providing covering fire for another Ranger seeking refuge at their position. Enemy insurgents moved in closer and lobbed two grenades at their position. The first one knocked two of the Rangers down, wounding them. A second grenade also landed among the three Rangers, but Sergeant Petry picked it up to throw it back at the enemy. Just as he released it, though, the grenade detonated severing his hand. Petry powered on, however, applying a tourniquet to himself and continued communicating with his commanders to coordinate support. He reenlisted with the Army in 2010 and currently works at Fort Lewis in Washington State, where he assists wounded Special Operations soldiers.
Sergeant Dakota Meyer
Place and Date of Action: Kunar Province, Afghanistan, September 8, 2009
Date of Issue: September 15, 2011
Sergeant Dakota Meyer is the third living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War. Then Corporal Meyer was maintaining security at a rally point while the rest of his team went into a village to meet with some of its elders. When the team arrived at the village it was ambushed by rocket fire, mortars, and heavy machine guns from houses on the slopes above. Hearing that his team was trapped, Meyer ignored direct orders to hold his position, manned the turret gun of his jeep while a fellow marine drove, and rushed to the assistance of his trapped team. Despite coming under heavy fire, Meyer killed several insurgents with the jeep’s mounted machine gun and his own rifle. Undeterred by a shrapnel wound, he would make a total of five trips to and from the village helping evacuate numerous friendly Afghan soldiers and providing vital cover fire for his team. The day before his White House award ceremony, Meyer asked if he could have a beer with President Obama -- who gladly accepted.
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Specialist Fourth Class Leslie H. Sabo, Jr.
Place and Date of Action: Se San, Cambodia, May 10, 1970
Date of Issue: May 16, 2012
Specialist Sabo and his team were on a reconnaissance mission in Cambodia when they were ambushed from all sides. Sabo immediately took action by charging an enemy position and killing several soldiers. He then stopped an enemy flanking force from completely overrunning their position. Running low on ammunition, he sprinted across an open field to a wounded team member. While reloading next to the wounded comrade, an enemy grenade landed nearby. Specialist Sabo picked up the grenade and threw it, shielding his comrade from the blast. Despite being seriously injured from this, he charged an enemy emplacement that was inflicting heavy damage on his team. He was mortally wounded by gunfire in the process, but still managed to crawl closer to the enemy emplacement, throwing a grenade at the last possible moment. Because he was so close and unable to escape, the grenade killed both him and enemy soldiers manning the emplacement. Sabo’s commanders nominated him for the Medal of Honor after the engagement, but somehow the request was lost. Thankfully, in 1999 a researcher on the 101st Airborne found Specialist Sabo’s file and began a campaign to ensure he was properly honored for his valiant actions that day.