The American Spirit Honor Medal


This was a long time ago, October 23 1965, and I am now white-haired and fat but I remember that day as if only a few years ago. Who wouldn’t? A Major General in the U.S. Army hands you a medal after the eight hardest weeks of your life and says, “Congratulations”.

I was a youngster like countless thousands of others who decided to sign up for the cause, or to otherwise show up when called.

Actually, I was drafted, but since I was married the induction center informed me that my marriage status prevented me from being inducted and they would just process me right on out. There were hundreds of young men there at the induction center, calmly waiting in line. I felt that I was one of them and was there for all the right reasons. I argued. Wait a minute. Just hold it. What if I want to anyway? Well, then, I guess we could. Hang on, I’ll call my wife. OK. I called her and she said You Should Do What You Want To Do.

Those were among the most important words I’ve ever heard and to this day I congratulate her for offering them up. Thirty minutes later I was sworn in and inducted into the United States Army.

It was August 21, 1965. I don’t regret a split second of any of it.

For some strange reason I loved Basic Training. It was like I was born for it. I can’t explain that. My entire life before would have seemingly negated this possibility. Neither can I explain some of the things I did during Basic which eventually led to my being awarded the American Spirit Honor medal.

But it was all good.  This is what we do.

SpenceMagic2Now my youngest son has joined the U.S. Air Force and will be showing up for work just about now, Monday, January 21 at Lackland. It’s called Basic Military Training. And it’s going to be the first time in his life he’ll be yelled at for simply existing, for being alive, for being within eye-shot of a Drill Sergeant. Oh Man, I’m grinning as I write; I just can’t help it. Many of us have gone through this and we know how his world will be changed.

But he’ll get through it. He might even excel. He’ll evolve into a member of a team, one of the best teams on the planet. When he walks away from Lackland he’ll be walking tall and straight and he’ll be a new man. Since he was a damn good man to start with that’s saying something. But that’s the idea behind our military. Take the best of the best and then grow them some more.

The American Spirit Honor Medal has been discontinued. Now all trainees who make it to and through Basic Training are correctly considered exceptional. All of them will develop, hone and demonstrate leadership skills, and survival skills, equal to anything any of us could ask from any hero.

My son will be among those men. I hereby award him the American Spirit Honor Medal.

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29 Responses to The American Spirit Honor Medal

  1. Wow, brought a tear to my eye. And those of your who serve in this way are owed such a great, great debt by the rest of us. I applaud your honour! 🙂

    • netgrits says:

      Thank you Helen. But you owe nothing (beyond paying taxes so commitments to returning Vets may be met). I appreciate you. But the truth is that we who serve do so because we want to serve. We do it for ourselves, for our families, for our communities. We do it because we want to. It’s a task we want to perform, a job we want to do. We need to do it and we would be unsatisfied with ourselves if we didn’t. So it’s not like we’re looking for a hug (gotta love the hug when we get one though!). It’s because we must.

      • I appreciate and respect that, but I also think perhaps you under-estimate how special that calling is, how rare it is to have people who hear and follow it and what that says about each and every one of you who do. Not everyone has that level of honour – I can’t claim anything near that – so I salute you for having it! 🙂

      • terry sharp says:

        I received mine in March of 1968. It is still one of my greatest/proudest achievements even though most who know me would not even know of it. terry sharp

    • Pat Lorello says:

      I did my basic at Ft. Jackson in January, 1975. First Battalion that had a company of women. (didn’t do the M-16 qualification, officially, but we were all at the range doing just that). So, I received the Award for my Battalion and was awarded the medial by General Prillerman. I had my dress hat on (with the brim) and he was around 6.5 feet tall, so I never saw his face (my family came to see me graduate and they told me he was a handsome man, but I wasn’t to raise my head, so I don’t know for sure. Anyway, I have my medal and I am proud to display it with my ARCOM for service in Korea. I loved the army and I should have stayed in for the 20. Oh well, the decisions of youth.

  2. netgrits says:

    Terry, thanks for your note. Yes, I know what you say. Outside of this page and a few family members no one knows of mine. It is true that it is one of my proudest achievements and, frankly, when I think about it, when I look back at the conditions we faced, the conditions we knew were coming, the status of the troops around us (our equals who actually needed in rank leadership), I’ll go a step further and say that what I did to earn it is the best stuff I’ve ever done. The medal and the hoopla were just add-ons, appreciated but not really necessary. You did these things because you knew you could, and you knew you should.

  3. Lynn A Smith says:

    Just saw this post. I was awarded the American Sprit Honor medal in Feb. 1966. I was proud to serve three tours in Viet Nam and was awarded a few other medals and ribbons before My time was up. Now I’m getting old, fatter, and My hair is white too. I sat down with my Grandsons and showed them my pictures and ribbons the other day. I showed them the pictures of me receiving the medal and we talked about Honor, Integrity, and the American Sprit. The look on their faces was all the reward I wll ever need.

    God Bless our troops!

    • netgrits says:

      Awesome comment, Lynn. Brings a little chill to the skin. You are so right about the grandkids and what they are telling us with their expressions. Way to go for filling them up.

      Now we need to get rid of this ‘fat’ thing!

  4. John Alfred Garrett says:

    I received this special award in March of 1968 after completing US Navy basic training in San Diego. I still have it and remember the presentation well. There were thousands in attendance during the graduation of fifteen hundred sailors but it seemed I stood alone as my family back in Arkansas awaited my return. We all knew I was standing on their shoulders.

    Through my Navy and (later) Army careers, I was blessed to earn a few more awards but none so special as the American Spirit Honor Medal. What a special time in my life! <. Matt 27:22

  5. netgrits says:

    Way to go John Alfred Garrett!

  6. Your son can receive the Basic Training Honor Graduate which is an award that he can wear on his uniform. I know this is after the fact, but he can be honored for his exemplary service and duty. Congratulations “NetGrit”
    John Kirkpatrick
    USAF Retired (21 years, Vietnam and SW Asia)

    • netgrits says:

      Thanks, John. Though he missed that award, Spence is kicking butt rank wise (works for me!) and is basically enjoying the whole trip. I get the idea he might well stay for the full 20. Initial signup — 6 years.

  7. Jim Sharp says:

    I received my American Honor Spirit Medal at Ft.Campbell, KY in 9-1-66 along with the Commandind General’s Award ( Brigadier General Michael Paulick ).Today at the age of 72, I have never enjoyed a confidence builder of any magnitude such as those two awards. I was grateful to the Army for the training, the confidence building and the life long patriotic boost. I am now a Texas resident where patriotism reigns…God bless our new President Elect Trump, our troops and first responders !!

    Jim Sharp

    • netgrits says:

      Way to go, Jim. I too received a second award. When we got back to the company area from the graduation parade and award ceremonies my CO and Exec Officer presented me with a beautiful plaque and certificate, a complete surprise. The company, especially my platoon, erupted into a roar of approval. That sound stays with me to this day.

    • terry sharp says:

      Would you send your email?

  8. Clifford Smith says:

    Was given mine in the summer of 1967, after graduating from basic at Amarillo AFB. Lost it over the years, but still have the presentation picture. My four years in the AF left me with some lifelong friends, and some good memories.

  9. netgrits says:

    Way to go, Cliff. About the time you were receiving your award I was leaving the Army, returning to civilian life, and, yes, with some incredible memories and lifelong friends. Good days!

  10. Glen Kirk says:

    I recieved my American Spirit Honor Medal upon graduation from Basic in June of 1973. The CO interviewed me, the DI’s coached me on how to address the Board,had me all nervous. I was sweating bullets,I think, as those Officers asked me all kinds of questions,hoping I was answering correctly. The only Colonel of the three members was the last to ask me a question, and his was “what do you think of when you hear the word “Watergate”? I replied that I knew all about the break in at the Watergate Hotel and how G.Gorden Liddy, E.Howard Hunt and others had been caught at the Democratic Headquarters…..but I then I told them the real first thing that comes to mind, was the headgate out on the far side of the family farm, where you could water the hay and grain, or take a swim with my old labrador retriever if there was nothing else to do on a hot day…Those guys sat there stone faced for a few seconds, then slowly looked at each other and broke out laughing like nothing I had never seen before…the Colonel was laughing so hard he was crying…..I thought I’d really screwed up!!…….So surprised when they called me up to receive the medal. I realized a year or two later that I won it for being the best BS’er those old boys had run into in quite a while. True story……I found that medal today in my gun cabinet, and decided to go online and see what I had…….I think I made their day……..I was a Platoon Guide, but the other three Guides in the company would come to me for help if they were having a problem with any of their men, instead of going to a DI or any other superior over us…..I knew how to get things straightened out… maybe that had something to do with it…..thanks for letting me tell my story….Glen Kirk

  11. netgrits says:

    Way to go Glen! I do know what you mean about the other Guides coming to you. It was quite amazing at the time but that’s what happens.

  12. terry sharp says:

    netgrits: how do I contact you? Is there a record of awardees?

  13. netgrits says:

    Terry, my email is Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a record of the awardees other than, perhaps, local newspapers and the Basic Trainee picture book (or whatever it is). The awards were made at post level so there’s no national record that I’m aware of.

  14. terry sharp says:

    My Congressman’s assistant has informed me there is no register.
    This is unfortunate! We need someone powerful with a wide audience to solve the missing search. We are not M O H awardees!, but some record would be nice/good deserving. terry sharp

    • Any Awards & Decorations should be listed on your DD Form 214 in the ‘comments’ section for that particular period of service. If you do not have your DD Form 214, a replacement can be ordered from the NATIONAL PERSONNEL RECORDS CENTER in St. Louis, MO. You can download the SF-180 and submit it to them for a Copy of all Your Service Records (which I would encourage you to do). If you have filed a VA Claim, then your service records are in the custody of the VA Regional Office where your claim was filed and you will need to contact them for a copy of your military records.
      The online contact address for the NPRC is:

    • Lynn A Smith says:

      I received mine in February 1966 from Great Lakes. Boot camp then was 12 weeks and the changes that the Navy instilled in me changed my personality for the rest of my life. I received other decorations in my Navy Career but the pride in my Father’s eyes as he sat on the reviewing stands when I was awarded the Metal still flashes through my mind every time I look at the Medal. I am old and white haired now too but remember that day like it was yesterday.

  15. The American Spirit Honor Award was a collaborative patriotic honor award that was funded and promoted by a Civilian Organization used to honor the outstanding Basic Training or Advanced Training servicemember. Not a ‘normal’ military award/decoration. Most branches of service picked up on the idea of promoting exceptionalism in the ranks by adopting an official award/decoration for training purposes (the Air Force has the “Basic Training Honor Graduate” ribbon).
    Congratulations to all who receive any award or decoration from the military for they have excelled in the performance of their duties with honor and patriotism.

  16. Paul Bent says:

    I’ve got a few years on you guys – received the American Spirit Honor Medal in Navy boot camp (San Diego) in January 1963. Then spent six years in the Navy on submarine tenders in the Pacific.

    As with other commenters here, I’m very proud of earning the medal (even though no one outside the few who have been awarded even know about it). Our company in boot camp, of which I was named company commander, won an award for best in our “class” of recruits, and when I received this medal from the then- under secretary of the navy it made the whole graduation ceremony a very special and memorable day for me.

    Congratulations to all of you in our little club!

  17. Herbert Cortez says:

    I received my American Spirit Honor Medal in November 1974 at graduation in San Diego during basic training and the base closure and quarentine due to the Hep A outbreak on base. It was an interesting time in my Naval career. Unfortunately,over the many years of moving/change of duty stations, I lost my Medal but the memories are still embeded in my mind of the day of receipt. I was a very proud Sailor that day.

  18. netgrits says:

    Way to go Herbert! Alas, I lost mine too but, yep, we still have the great memories. And as I’ve discovered, great memories are good for geezers! : D

  19. Joe Segreto says:

    Hello … Got a tap on the shoulder toward the end of a hot, grueling training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina in 1968 by my Jones, my drill sergeant. I said, “cool!”. Sat before the board. Answered a few questions as honestly as I could and next thing I knew they were awarding me a medal. “For what?” I thought. Okay, I was a squad leader, never fell out of a five mile run, made my bed tightly. But, the feeling of receiving a little honor was quite a boost. I must say. Did a tour in Nam the following year in Fire Base Santa Barbara, near Tay Ninh. We caught some crap and pulled together to remain safe and sound for the duration of the ten months I spent there. All I can say is I did my best to play my part toward my comrades. We were a 105mm unit. And, I’m proud to say we never shot a round “out” on friendly troops and managed to keep our base secure throughout my time there. I look at this little medal every now and then and always feel a little mixed. There was some real heroism that went unnoticed among many of my comrades. I think whatever medals I may have in my name I would gladly share with them in Spirit.

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