Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Does Chris Kyle Deserve The Medal Of Honor?

Since the movie "American Sniper" was released earlier this month there have been calls from various people on social media sites for Chris Kyle to receive a Medal of Honor for his service. And while it's wonderful that people believe Kyle deserving of such an honor (I'm sure he would be embarrassed but honored that people thought so highly of him) does he deserve the Congressional Medal of Honor?

There is no doubt that Chris Kyle was a patriot, a fine soldier, and one of the very best snipers in American history. And yes, he was a hero who saved countless lives by doing his job to the best of his ability. His fellow soldiers called him "Legend" because of his skills and stats. But is that worthy of a Medal of Honor?

There are certain criteria that must be met for a service member (or civilian attached to a military organization) to be nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor. In the Navy the requirements are written as follows:

In accordance with United States Code Title 10, Subtitle C, Part II, Chapter 567, the President may award, and present in the name of Congress, a medal of honor of appropriate design, with ribbons and appurtenances, to a person who, while a member of the naval service, distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty—

(1) while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;

(2) while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or

(3) while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

Chris Kyle was a Navy SEAL sniper. He was a brave man who volunteered for four tours in Iraq. I have no doubt that given the opportunity he would have taken extraordinary measures to save a fellow SEAL or fellow service member. But did he? There is no evidence, at least public evidence, that he did. And since he left the service in 2009 and was never nominated for it one can probably correctly guess that the Navy didn't find he met the requirements for the award.

Some people want to give Kyle the Medal of Honor just because they think he deserves it. But the Medal of Honor is not something you get when you win a popularity contest. And it's not an award given for a successful book and/or movie about your wartime experiences. It's an award for bravery and self-sacrifice over and above the call of duty. Read that again: "Over and above the call of duty." And it needs to remain so.

Chris Kyle's remarkable job as a SEAL and a sniper, regardless of how many lives he saved or how many of the enemy he killed, was all part of his regular duties. 

During his 10 year stint in the Navy Chris Kyle earned two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars for valor in combat. Since he was never nominated for the Medal of Honor it is obvious the Navy did not believe he earned one according to the written criteria. And being nominated by civilians, as noble as it sounds and as good as their intentions are, isn't going to work. As great as he was at what he did, and as difficult as it will be for some to understand and accept, he did not live up to the criteria for the top military honor. We can all honor his memory, which would probably mean more to Chris than a posthumous medal anyway.

I have the utmost respect for Chris Kyle. Likewise, as an 8 year veteran of the Air Force I have the same respect for the honor and tradition of the Medal of Honor. It is awarded for a reason that is much more than just being good at what one does.

Rest in peace, Chief Kyle. You will not be forgotten anytime soon - not by my generation, anyway. Your story resonates in the hearts and minds of American patriots young and old. Thank you for everything you did for the nation and for your fellow service members. You may not have earned a Medal of Honor but you earned your accolades - at least in my book.

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