Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Honor At Harvard

My, how times have changed:

Most Americans, however, might be hard-pressed to guess another Harvard distinction: the highest number of Medal of Honor recipients outside the service academies...

Harvard's prominence among Medal of Honor recipients is a recent discovery. It grew out of a reference by a speaker during a 2005 commissioning ceremony. The reference intrigued Paul Mawn '63, a retired Navy captain. With a little research, he unearthed the names of all 10—the most of any university outside the United States Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Altogether the Harvard list shows eight Army soldiers and two Marines. It includes the father-and-son recipients Teddy Roosevelt (for San Juan Hill) and Teddy Roosevelt II (for D-Day). Others range from the Army's Leonard Wood, who was awarded the medal for carrying dispatches through Apache territory in the 1880s, to Marine Sherrod Skinner, who threw himself on a grenade in October 1952 during the Korean War, saving the lives of two comrades.

Recognizing the valor of alumni like these men might seem easy. At many college campuses these days, however, questions about what history to honor and how to honor it often come wrapped in current controversies. It's no different at Harvard, where the ceremony for soldiers and Marines past inevitably draws comparisons to Harvard's modern relationship with a United States military that defends the freedoms which make the university's work possible.

In particular, this means the Reserve Officer Training Corps. ROTC was chucked off campus at the height of the Vietnam War and remains officially unrecognized today...

For more than 12 generations, Harvard has been well represented in the uniform of our nation. Let us commend the school for the decision to recognize those members of its family who have earned our nation's highest honor in this service. And let us hope for the day the university finds it within itself to recognize those Harvard men and women who, inspired by this example, now step forward to follow these heroes into that long Crimson line.

From the Wall Street Journal Online.

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