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More Medals of Honor, but still not a living hero

UPDATED 9/9: In the last week the White House has announced two new Medal of Honor recipients, the 3,447th and 3,448th in the history of the honor. The first will be given to the family of Medal of Honor to Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger, killed in action in Laos 42 years ago. The airman and his crew were overrun by the enemy during a bombing mission there in 1968, and Etchberger was gravely wounded while drawing enemy fire away from a rescue airlift evacuating his wounded comrades. His sons will attend the White House ceremony on Sept. 21.

On Thursday White House officials announced the third posthumous Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan, this one to Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller for actions in January 2008. While both awards recognize outstanding heroism and courage under fire, the announcements aren't the Medal of Honor news most military watchers were hoping to hear this month.

Earlier this summer rumors surfaced that the president would honor the first living Medal of Honor recipient for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but since then officials have remained quiet on who that person may be and when the hero will be recognized.

Veterans groups have been pushing for better recognition of the heroism of current day troops for several years. Only six troops have been recognized with the Medal of Honor for current conflicts, all of them posthumous. Nearly 250 were awarded in Vietnam.

Defense Department officials have insisted that they're not being overprotective of the highest military award, noting that advances in military equipment and methods put fewer troops in a position to show the type of heroism demanded for such an honor.

But sources have told me that military officials have been overly cautious with selecting the first living recipient for the current wars, making sure that the individual's military and personal life is beyond reproach because of the patriotic symbol he or she will become. Many also believe that once the first is recognized, others will quickly follow.   

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