Monday, December 01, 2008

Monica Brown

I have written about Monica Brown before. She is only the second woman since WWII to have been awarded the Silver Star. Lara Logan interviewed her on Sixty Minutes:

Private Monica Brown is only the second woman to be awarded the Silver Star since World War II. She's an Army medic who risked her own life to save two critically wounded paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan.

Under Army regulations, women cannot be assigned to frontline combat units. But, as correspondent Lara Logan reports, in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq today, that's exactly where they often end up.

Some male soldiers aren't so happy about that, including members of Pvt. Brown's own unit. But her superior officers say she is a hero - a hero who earned one of the military's highest awards for exceptional valor when she was only 18 years old.

Read the whole story, as they say. She is clearly one of those people who act like cucumbers in situations of extreme stress. In the sense of being cool, I mean.

I found the whole interview (which I happened to see on television) quite interesting. It's hard to know how to define heroism and one might think that there's a tendency to either go overboard in the adulation department or to spend all the time finding those feet of clay.

Except that I doubt people would do that with the traditional hero, some man who won the Silver Star for exceptional valor. Would they wonder if his ethnicity, race or religion was really the reason for the award? Would they ask if what he did really was that heroic? Perhaps. But I can't recall a single story like that.

In any case, the interview touched on the idea that Monica Brown might have gotten the reward for being a woman. This offers us yet another example of how the First Women are always suspected of being women first.

This is the part I found shocking in the interview:

"Do you think the two most critically wounded, Smith and Spray, do you think they are alive today partly because of Monica's actions?" Logan asks.

"Without a doubt," Greene says.

"Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely," Schweitzer adds.

But both of those men, Smith and Spray, declined to give 60 Minutes an interview. When we asked why, Smith said flat out women have no business being on the front line. The men who did talk to us did not feel that way, and said Brown performed as well as any man on the battlefield.

I bolded the shocking sentence in the quote. Let's assume that Smith indeed owes his life to Monica Brown. What he is then saying is that he prefers being dead to having women on the front lines. Now I'd call that at least determined if not shocking.

It would be interesting to know if he felt that way before or if his current role as the guy-who-was-saved-by-a-little-girl is the reason for his opinions.