Although we usually think of our nation as having four military branches -- Air Force, Army, Marines and the Navy -- we really have five. Mostly viewed as a rescue unit or as a semi-police force interdicting illegal traffic on the shorelines, the United States Coast Guard is in fact a branch of the military, created in 1915.
Coast Guardsmen saw heavy action in World War I and World War II, often piloting the landing craft used to deposit Marines on beaches during landings. One such guardsman, Signalman First Class Douglas Munro of South Cle Elum, Washington, earned the service's only Congressional Medal of Honor when he risked himself to evacuate Marines under attack at Guadalcanal, and then to protect the evacuating boats loaded with escaping men.
Munro was hit at the very end of his sweep, but the two remaining crewmen on his craft continued to protect and guard the other landing boats as they made their way back towards safety. Some reports suggest that Munro regained consciousness long enough to ask if all the Marines had been picked up, and upon hearing that they had, he died.
On Memorial Day, Signalman Munro's story can serve as a good reminder that our nation's military encourages and has honored selfless acts of bravery that do not always involve the taking of lives. Such a fact should go without saying, but there seem to be too many, both in the service and obviously among its many critics, who believe otherwise. Douglas Munro -- one among many -- proclaims that they are wrong.