There’s been some progress in the ongoing campaign to award the Congressional Medal of Honor to Lt. Alonzo Cushing, the Delafield, Wisconsin native who was killed in action while directing his artillery battery during Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd, 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg. On December 20th, the Senate passed a defense bill that included an exemption from the normal time limitations for awarding the Medal. Under the current rules, the recommendation to congress must be made within two years of the heroic act, and the Medal must be awarded within three years. Earlier this year, a similar exemption was removed from a defense bill because some in Congress were reluctant to award the Medal to someone for acts of heroism a century and a half ago, believing it would lead to more requests of a similar nature.
I just don’t see a flood of serious Medal of Honor requests for actions in past wars as a result of this. The process is obviously very rigorous and would weed out most applications quickly. I see the Cushing situation as the correction of an oversight, an exceptional circumstance and not a trend.
Representatives Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) have been spearheading the effort in Congress to get the Medal of Honor awarded to Cushing, and they have sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging him to recommend the honor for Cushing. If Hagel makes the recommendation, the president would also have to approve it (and of course, sign the defense bill that contains the time exemption). Cushing’s Medal of Honor isn’t a done deal yet, but it’s getting closer.