SFC Alwyn Cashe and Cognitive Dissonance

A bit on why I’m so impressed with this individual, his situation, and why it means something to me.

Here is his MoH citation.

First, obviously, that’s heroism. If the word ‘heroism’ has meaning, that’s it. There’s a point where over-analyzing is no longer necessary. Dude was a hero and exhibited the finest qualities of the Army and a Soldier.

Second, after he died, the Army dragged its feet for years on giving him the MoH. Even after everything was known, after Congress passed a special bill basically to get him the MoH, it took more years. Through all this, SFC Cashe’s family stayed focused, professional, and on target. There were so many opportunities they could have let loose, and there was so much justification. It was easy, and many people did, to say that there’s no way the Army could decline to give SFC Cashe’s family the MoH in his name without being deliberate, intentional, and bigoted. There’s no way anyone could actually be that incompetent innocently.

And I thought to myself, slow down. Yes, yes they could. Yes, there absolutely could.

SFC Cashe was the Army. The institution is people, and he was one of them. You don’t run in and out of a burning truck when you’re partially committed, and he was the Army. Yet the morass was also the Army, and it’s the Army as it is too. Everyone who passed that paper, let it slide, and ducked their duty was, and probably is, the Army. They both are. The Army is not a monolith.

When I think about the Army and the hostility I still have for it, the hostility I have for myself for joining, I think of Smoke and recall that there are the good things. The reasons I went in do matter, and they’re not just my lunacy. They matter to many people, and better men than I exhibited them. When that thought takes me to bitterness, and I think that if I’d pushed harder I wouldn’t have felt such disgruntlement, I recall that SFC Cashe did push and he did everything that could be asked of him. If you read that citation, he was explicitly above the call of duty. Whatever I was called to do, it was less than that!

And his widow and family got the full Army treatment: infuriating and maddening. The Army being infuriating wasn’t me not being a good enough Soldier. It was the Army being the Army. It just wasn’t about me, and the MoH quagmire wasn’t about him.

Better man than I. I wish his family the best of luck, and if some part of him yet exists, I wish him grace wherever he is.

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