We huddled in one office this morning watching the British sailors and Royal Marines talk about their experience. We watched live on MSNBC, and the coverage was followed by a blistering commentary by Col. Jack Jacobs (ret.), NBC News military analyst and Medal of Honor recipient. We'll be airing some of Jack's comments on the broadcast -- his views won't be shared by all -- hear him out, however -- and if you still have trouble understanding the ethos he represents, may I again recommend the best-ever collection of stories about Medal of Honor recipients.
Another decoration is in the news. Purple Hearts were given out today, and while they're given out most days, this ceremony was special. I'm posting here the internal coverage note that our own Washington Producer John Rutherford distributed in our in-house computer system. As you read through his reporting, please pay special note to his final paragraph. He granted me permission to include it in this space.
Six soldiers wounded in Iraq received Purple Hearts today at a solemn and emotional ceremony at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Brig. Gen. Michael Tucker pinned medals on the 6 men and urged them to go out and tell their stories to America.
"It's good for America to hear your story," he said. "This Army's at war, but sometimes we believe that perhaps the nation's not at war."
The 6 recipients were:
- Sgt. Jerald Gragg, 27, Granite Falls, N.C., wounded by an IED in Baghdad.
- Sgt. Aeron Rimando, 22, Carson, Calif., also wounded by an IED in Baghdad.
- Sgt. Hector Lopez Jr., 26, El Paso, Texas, shot by a sniper in Mosul.
- Sgt. Wade Walling, 37, Connersville, Ind., wounded by an IED in Ramadi.
- Spc. Thomas Darr, 39, Lyman, Wyo., wounded by an IED in the Iraqi Area of Operations.
- Spc. Joseph Bacani, 21, Tusgin, Texas, shot by a sniper in Baghdad.
Sgt. Walling choked up as he thanked Walter Reed for caring for him, God for protecting him, and his wife and son and daughter for standing by him.
"It means a lot to receive this award," he said.
Spc. Darr and Spc. Bacani also spoke.
"This isn't an award you plan on or want to get," Darr said, "but you just go out there and do it and hope it doesn't happen, but then it's an honor to wear it."
"I sure wish I was in Iraq with my scout brothers," Bacani, a cavalry scout, said, "but this is just what happens. I'm thankful for them saving my life. I just wish everyone would come home safe."
After the ceremony, the 6 men and their families stood on a stage, and people lined up to personally thank them.
In 1970, I was wounded in Vietnam. I was treated at an Army field hospital in An Khe. One day a corporal came through our ward and casually asked each patient why he was there. Later the corporal returned with an armful of small rectangular boxes and tossed them on the beds of the men who were wounded in combat. That's how we received our Purple Hearts back then.
-- John Rutherford, NBC News
Also vying for a slot at the top of the broadcast tonight: the report on global warming, and the call-up and deployment of reservists as we reported for the first time last night. Two feature items of note: if you read Jonathan Alter's cover story in this week's Newsweek, you'll know he found great comfort, during his successful battle with cancer, in a Web site that helps the seriously ill and their families and friends all keep in touch. He'll do the television version of that story tonight. Also -- a look at America's First Mob Family: We'll spend two minutes or so with the Soprano's cast and crew as they prepare for the beginning of the end of the series.
MOURNING A LOSS
This next item is related to the above: There are now 110 living Medal of Honor recipients. Today we learned Raymond Murphy died. Here is his background and citation. (scroll down) He was awarded the MOH by President Eisenhower in 1953.
We hope you can join us for our broadcast on this Good Friday evening, and we look forward to seeing you next week.