Honoring other Americans
As I listened to the radio last Monday, everything I heard about Memorial Day dwelt on the contribution of the veterans who had died in American was since World War II. Since the majority of such deaths have been of soldiers and sailors, it’s only right that our attention is focused on honoring them.
But it’s equally important that we remember and honor the civilians who have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Very unordinary people like Mother Teresa and Stephen Hawking have received our nation’s highest civilian award for “especially meritorious service to the security or national interests of the United States, world or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Most of us don’t know that there have been more American ambassadors killed in the counties to which they’ve been assigned than U.S. generals killed in action during all our wars since World War I.
Often the medal has been given by presidents for political friends whom they consider as best reflecting their own political views (President Reagan to Margaret Thatcher or Presidents Bush to Reagan. On the other hand President Clinton awarded the medal to Eric Bromfman, and President Obama to Chita Rivera and Stephen Hawking.)
We should honor these people too because overcoming their own illness or fatigue, Mother Teresa and Stephen Hawking have done as much as the soldiers of freedom.