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Student Essay: Unique Characteristics of a Medal of Honor Recipient

From left to right: the Army, Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard, and Air Force medals.

BY JAMES KEI PALMER - What really sets humans apart from any other species on this planet is our ability to disregard the simple necessities of survival.  The instinct to survive is programed into the mind of every single living creature.  It is one of the laws of life.  Yet humans can choose to transcend this instinct.  We can stop focusing on our own survival, and start focusing on the survival of others.  War will often show you someone’s true colors.

When danger and death are present, people will sometimes revert back to their basic instinct of survival.  There are those, however, that will protect their comrades no matter what the situation and no matter what the cost.  They do not think about themselves in the middle of combat.  They think of the safety of others.  People like this exist everywhere, but they are given exceptional honor in the United States Military.

People who sacrifice for others represent the ideals of what America stands for, and we recognize these people with the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The Medal of Honor is the greatest award that any soldier can receive for an act of heroism.  The Medal is not given to people who kill many enemies.  It is given to those who protect their comrades and those around them.  These people are not focused on earning fame for themselves; they work for the greater safety of their group.

Selflessness is a trait found in all Medal of Honor winners.  I believe this single trait is what uniquely determines a Medal of Honor winner.  There are other traits such as pride and honor that can be found in a Medal of Honor recipient, but these can be quite common in the armed forces.

To risk your life for someone shows your ultimate and selfless concern for them.  Many say or want to believe they are capable of such selfless acts, but those are just idle thoughts and words until the time calls for action.   Medal of Honor Recipients have all willingly risked their lives for others, proving they are capable of such incredible deeds.

After WWII, over half of all Medal of Honor recipients have died in combat from their heroic actions.  These medals were given to those who had committed selfless acts of protecting others, such as jumping on a live grenade to save others.  There is so little time to react to a grenade landing next to you.

It proves how automatic and pre-programmed their selfless instincts are as a part of their character.   History will remember people like these, who risked or lost their lives to protect others.  These actions inspire others.  We become more understanding and more caring due to these people.  In the end, it brings humanity closer together as a whole and separates us from the animals.


James Kei Palmer is a Sophomore at Kailua High School. He won third place in the Small Business Hawaii Education Foundation's student essay contest on the Medal of Honor winners.

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6 Comments for “Student Essay: Unique Characteristics of a Medal of Honor Recipient”

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  2. Very interesting! I am sure there are a lot of things we have in common that define us as humans. A great topic or an essay.

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