Since being named the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, many people have called me a hero. It is not a label I am particularly comfortable embracing. When I think of the bravery of a hero, I think of the soldiers I served alongside in harrowing conditions and those who continue to return to those dangerous places. And when I consider the sacrifices made by a hero, I remember friends who gave their lives so that the rest of us could enjoy relative peace. I do not believe I will ever truly get used to hearing people call me hero. Yet I will accept the recognition every time if it gives me a chance to tell the stories of my heroes – my brothers and sisters in arms.
Today’s generation of military men and women have not suffered a shortage of encouragement from our nation. Our service members are grateful for the care packages, kind words from strangers, contributions of military support organizations and warm homecomings. We know the nation has not always been as united behind the military, and we do not take that encouragement for granted.