The Air Force is reviewing a handful of cases in which airmen committed extraordinary acts of valor to decide whether to recommend any for Medals of Honor.
In a roundtable with reporters Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s Air Space Cyber conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein declined to say which airmen are being considered for Medal of Honor nominations, presumably upgrades from the medals they have already received, nor did he say how many airmen are being looked at, aside from “a few.”
He did say Tech. Sgt. Daniel Keller, a Kentucky Air Guardsman and combat controller who on Sept. 13 was awarded the Air Force Cross for his heroism in Afghanistan, is not one of those being considered. Keller’s Air Force Cross — which is second only to the Medal of Honor and is the highest award the Air Force can bestow — was upgraded from a Silver Star.
Master Sgt. John Chapman last year became the first airman to receive the nation’s highest honor for valor for actions taken since the Vietnam War. Chapman, a combat controller who was posthumously promoted, was killed during the fierce mountaintop fighting of the Battle of Takur Ghar, Afghanistan, in 2002.
Some observers, including Douglas Sterner, curator of Military Times’ Hall of Valor, have questioned the relative lack of Medals of Honor for the current generation of airmen. Those critics say several airmen, both alive and dead, have displayed significant courage and heroism in combat and should be recognized with the nation’s highest award.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.