Courage Under Fire – why does Walden deserve the medal?

The movie Courage Under Fire was absolutely fascinating in the way that Captain Karen Walden was treated and viewed throughout the film.  We first learn of her through a file, which shows that she’s a woman who is being investigated to receive a Medal of Honor posthumously.  At that moment, I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but I was pretty impressed.

As the film went on, she went from being portrayed as an amazing person to the worst captain the army has ever seen.  However, I was particularly struck with the response the General had when Serling brought up the inconsistencies in his report.  He told him to finish it up quickly, almost as if he didn’t care what Walden had actually done out in the battlefield.  He’d heard a little, but he seemed so determined by all the good press that granting her the medal would receive.  She would be the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor, thus it was a pretty big deal and super good publicity for everyone who follows whatever the army does.  I found that she was used more as a promoter for how awesome the army is than actually being honored for what she did.  I mean, at the very end it was proven that she did actually deserve the Medal, but the reasons for her being suggested for it in the first place were frustrating to me.

Something else that frustrated me was the fact that her initial recommendation and the story mostly came from all the men in her unit, and almost all of them were fabrications.

Next, I found Serling’s and Walden’s companions’ reactions fascinating to have killed someone on their own side.  Serling does feel guilty, of course, and he demonstrates it through his drinking, his constant nightmares, and his inability to reconnect with his family after returning from the war.  But, if you compare his reactions to the ones that Walden’s men had, it isn’t as strong.  Montfriez commits suicide by train, Altameyer can’t talk about the incident without having to self-medicate himself into oblivion, and Ilario turned to drugs.  Were their reactions so much stronger because of the fact that she was a woman?  Or was it just the circumstance?

Either way, I found it interesting to set Serling and Walden side by side, and compare the two.

Do you guys have any thoughts?  Any other striking moments in the movie?

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2 thoughts on “Courage Under Fire – why does Walden deserve the medal?

  1. For me, the most disturbing part of the movie was Montfriez’s decision to lie about the state of Walden and the inability of his fellow men to speak out against his lie. As much as someone without military experience can, I understand the stress of which the men were under; the dire situation of barely surviving an intense gun fight and Montfriez’s fear of what will happen to him once higher officials find out about his insubordination, but I (and hope everyone else feels the same) still can’t condone his decision to leave Walden behind or the other soldiers for being quiet about it.

    While I do believe Montifriez’s pride would have produced the same results whether Walden was a man or not, I think the movie made it clear that his hyper macho attitude stemmed from being led by a woman. Of all the soldiers, he was the one constantly trying to prove how manly he was, only to fall very short in crunch time. His lack of trust in Walden’s leadership ability resulted in him mistakenly shooting Walden, leaving her unable to move to the rescue helicopter once it arrived. For me, pride fullness seemed to be the downfall of Montfriez, unfortunately, his pride fullness took down three others along with him.

  2. The way I saw it, Walden’s companions feel far guiltier because they had knowingly enabled Walden’s death, whereas Serling didn’t know he killed his friend until after the fact. I think that though Serling still feels incredibly guilty for what he did, knowing that it was an accident eases his conscience. Walden’s companions, on the other hand, have to deal with the unwavering guilt of not returning to rescue Walden, who may or may not still be alive, leading to her definite death.

    I agree with module81- I was shocked when Montfriez lied about Walden and nobody refuted. Maybe in that moment, they were all in survival mode and just wanted to get out of there, but I’m wondering if Walden being a woman had anything to do with it.

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