Medal of Honor Recipients Continue to Inspire

Medal of Honor Recipients Continue to Inspire

book cover
Photo by: Courtesy

It started with the realization that Medal of Honor recipients had confronted the most difficult moment in their lives and responded with incredible courage, and it turned into a mission to tell their stories.

In his new book, In the Company of Heroes: The Inspiring Stories of Medal of Honor Recipients from America’s Longest Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, author James Kitfield sets out to tell the stories of 25 of those heroes.

“Every one of these individuals chose to do the extremely difficult and dangerous thing and put their lives at risk,” Kitfield said Nov. 16 during a Thought Leaders webinar hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army. “That was what inspired me so much about that story, and I wanted to tell more stories.” 

Since the Global War on Terror began, more than 2.77 million service members have served at least one deployment overseas. In that time, 25 service members have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, for putting service above self, and nine of them made the ultimate sacrifice, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. 

Though Kitfield has extensively covered the military as a journalist and understood the courage of service members, the love and tenderness that permeated the stories Medal of Honor recipients surprised him. 

“A lot of these stories really turn out to be about love and tenderness, and that did surprise me,” he said. “But if you think about it, there’s no greater love than being willing to jump on a grenade and take with your own body the blast that was meant for your colleagues.” 

While the courage of Medal of Honor recipients is unparalleled, all are examples of ordinary people with “greatness …thrust upon them,” he said. 

“These were ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, finding out that there is a hero that lies beneath their skin,” Kitfield said. “They come from all walks of life, they come from all corners of the country, all kinds of different circumstances.” 

Many consider those who have served after 9/11 to be the new greatest American generation, Kitfield said. 

“I think we should be very clear about the burden that the 1% of volunteers had to shoulder during our longest wars,” he said. “These are not just stories of individuals, they are stories of teams and units, of volunteers who band together, and, in many cases, volunteered after 9/11 knowing they're going into combat.” 

Kitfield said that Americans can take comfort in knowing that the U.S. continues to produce such men and women.  

“What I found so inspiring … is that these [service members] come from every corner of this country,” Kitfield said. “There are big cities and little communities and small villages who are creating these individuals with this value system. That is extraordinary, and that should give us all some comfort … because this country produced these extraordinary individuals.”

Watch the webinar here.