Since at least 1942, beginning with U.S. Rep. John Dingell — whose son would become the longest-serving member of Congress — several U.S. representatives have fought to have the Medal of Honor bestowed on Texan Doris “Dorie” Miller.
Among those members of Congress who tried, but failed, were Reps. Jake Pickle, Barbara Jordan, Craig Washington and Mickey Leland, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Miller, a native of Waco, was an African-American who served as a mess attendant aboard the USS West Virginia when it was hit by Japanese torpedoes in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
In those days, blacks were not allowed to have combat assignments, yet when his ship was struck Miller manned a machine gun, firing it until it ran out of ammunition, and helped carry the wounded to safe areas.
In 1942, the Texan was given the Navy Cross, now the Navy’s second highest honor, for “exceptional courage, presence of mind, and devotion to duty and disregard for his personal safety,” becoming the first black person to receive that award. But he was not recommended for the Medal of Honor.
Miller died in action the following year while serving on a ship in the South Pacific that was also struck by a torpedo.
After almost 75 years since his heroic act at Pearl Harbor, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, also a Waco native, is making another attempt to get the Medal of Honor for Miller. The Morning News says she “is building a national committee of 500 community leaders, elected officials and historians” to work toward that effort.
Beginning this summer there will be a letter writing campaign to ask President Obama to award the honor to Miller.
The nation’s highest military award should not be handed out lightly and, for some reason, Miller’s actions have been deemed by those who reviewed them to cross the merit threshold for the Navy Cross but not the Medal of Honor.
At a time when the term hero is so easily applied to those who perform even the most mundane acts, it is about time that the nation recognizes this true American hero with its highest honor.