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The Medal of Honor

October 12, 2016

Although it is often called the Congressional Medal of Honor, its official name is simply Medal of Honor.  Recommendations for the award come either through Congress or the chain of command.  The President then makes the award in the name of Congress.  Notable recipients have been Alvin York, Audie Murphy, and Theodore Roosevelt.  All three lived through the end of their respective wars, but Roosevelt was unable to attend his own award ceremony.

Theodore Roosevelt bravely fought the enemy during the Spanish-American War.  Then, for the sake of his men who were dying from malaria, he offended the War Department.  Secretary Alger retaliated by failing to endorse Roosevelt for the Medal of Honor.  Within three years Alger would be out of office and Roosevelt would be President, but the opportunity to receive the Medal had been lost, or so Roosevelt believed.

There can be no doubt that Roosevelt had hoped to receive the award.  He said as much in war time correspondence with Senator Henry Cabot Lodge.  By 1907 he had been voted an honorary member of the Medal of Honor Club, but he declined.  Roosevelt commented: “I was recommended for it by my superior officers in the Santiago campaign, but I was not awarded it; and frankly, looking back at it now, I feel that the board which declined to award it took exactly the right position.”

But posterity could not forget the Rough Rider who risked so much at Kettle Hill.  Decades after his death they would carve his image into Mount Rushmore, and more than one hundred years after the Spanish-American War his courage would be appropriately recognized by a grateful nation.

Only one President has ever received the Medal of Honor, and his name is Theodore Roosevelt.

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