Sgt. Dakota Meyer became the first living Marine in 41 years to wear the nation's highest award for valor when it was awarded to him on thursday.
But if he could have chosen, he never would have had to do what he did to receive it.
Meyer saved the lives of more than 35 of his fellow Marines and their Afghan counterparts during a horrific firefight two years ago. He charged into enemy fire again and again, retrieving the bodies of two of his fallen friends in the process.
To do this, he had to disobey orders not to enter the kill zone.
Three Army officers are likely looking at the end of their careers today for refusing to send reinforcements to aid the beleagured Marine Embedded Training Team and the Afghans they had been training. Unfortunately, it's a scenario that is being seen all too often in Afghanistan today - something I've referred to as "institutional timidity" on the part of rear-echelon commanders in theater.
As the war has dragged on, it has become more and more apparent with each passing year - too many officers are more concerned with avoiding losses than they are with winning the war - more concerned with following rote procedure than with leading their men to victory.
This sand in the gears of the military machine has led many junior non-commissioned officers to throw up their hands in disgust, and more than one that I know personally has made the choice to leave the military when they had previously planned to make it a career.
Worse yet, bureaucratic cowardice has, without a doubt, caused the needless deaths of dozens of American men and women. And it is a real shame to see.
But the good news is that for every indecisive rear-echelon commander there are dozens, if not hundreds of audacious warriors like Sgt. Dakota Meyer. Men who are willing to put their fledgeling careers on the line to do what they know is right even when commanded to do otherwise.
This willingness to act of their own accord has always been the hallmark of the American NCO - and it has always been the singular trait that sets our military apart from any other.
Not that they are a bunch of out-of-control yahoos - far from it. Today's soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on the front lines are tough, professional, and best of all, audacious.
And qualities like that give me hope for the future of this war.