Random Firings of Neurons

The rest of your life is going to be spent getting back up after life has knocked you down again. You might as well just get used to it.

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Location: Round Rock, Texas, United States

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

On Heroes

My heroes have rarely been the same as other peoples. Even when I was a so-far-left-I-leaned-when-I-walked idiotarian, I still had different heroes than all of my compatriots. My heroes have always been that rare group of men who have won the Medal of Honor, awarded by Congress. I have a subset of heroes who are the men who have won the Victoria's Cross, but I don't trot them out as much, since I'm not English. That group of men is even MORE inspiring, believe it or not. But that is a topic for another day.

I have seen some knuckleheads over at the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiller who trot out Senator Kerry's three Purple Hearts and Silver Star as a testament to his worthiness in military matters. Those same knuckleheads will dismiss winners of the CMOH (I know, wrong acronym, but it's easier to type than the correct one) as undeserving of their medals, so unfit to judge Senator Kerry's military service. Maybe someone needs to explain just what it takes to be awarded a CMOH (I doubt any of the recipients of the CMOH would consider themselves to have "won" it, like it was a prize in carnival). Being awarded a CMOH is, literally, the highest honor this country can bestow upon an individual. Without question, every man who has received the CMOH (since the US Civil War) has done far more than this country had even a right to ask of them. And most of them paid a greater price than this country was prepared to ask.

Without getting into too many specifics, or details, the Medal of Honor, awarded by Congress is an award given to men (no women yet) who have performed their military duties "above and beyond the call of Duty, in the face of the enemy, at grave risk to life and/or limb". It is a telling statistic that only one out of three CMOH recipients survived the actions that resulted in the award. Think about that for a minute. Or two. Better yet, think about that for at least an hour. Take all the time you want. I'll still be here. I, personally, have spent most of my life thinking about what that little statistic meant. To add to that little stat, realize that less than 200 (I think it's less than 100, but I'll go with the higher number for now) men have been awarded that medal TWICE! No one has ever survived to receive it three times. Although, there are rumblings and grumblings that the Marines have had two people be reccommended for at least three, (Maj. Smedley Butler, and Col. Lewis Puller, who may have been reccommended for FOUR!) but that could just be the vaunted USMC PR machine at work. So, we'll pretend that that is not the case. For now. :) I have read some of the citations for CMOH awards, and, let me tell you, some of them will bring a tear to the eye of all but the most heartless of men.

During the Battle for Iwo Jima, a corpsman, whose name escapes me right now, was travelling with his platoon, when a Marine was hit by enemy fire. The corpsman rushed to do his Duty, and started to perform first aid on the Marine. While this corpsman was treating his patient, the corpsman was hit by enemy fire himself, in the leg. He continued to treat the Marine, and then crawled to his next patient. He was hit AGAIN, again in the leg, but continued to treat the wounded Marine. When he was done with that patient, he crawled to his next patient, where the corpsman was hit for a third time, this time in the head. He continued to treat his patient. While stabilizing his third patient of the fire-fight, with three serious wounds, all untreated, of his own, this corpsman expired of his wounds. His patients all survived. Tell me that that man did not deserve all the accolades we could heap upon him, plus some we aren't capable of. Try it. Please. See how quickly I lose my pleasant demeanor.

At another time during the Battle for Iwo Jima, another corpsman was treating a Marine who had been injured during one of the few enemy counter-attacks that occured. During this counter attack, the corpsman crawled over the ground (the Marines were all in their fighting holes, fox-holes to you dog-faces :) ) to the where the wounded Marine was. While performing first aid on the Marine, a grenade came into the fighting hole. The corpsman threw it back. Another grenade came in. He threw that one back, also. He repeated this exercise at least FIFTEEN times. The sixteenth detonated in his hand. His patient survived. The corpsman did not.

During the Naval Battle off Samar Island, Cmdr. Ernest Evans, captain of the USS Johnston, a destroyer, charged his vessel, with no support, against the main body of the Japanese fleet, which was comprised of four battleships, of which one was the Yamato, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and eleven destroyers. He launched his torpedoes, engaged the enemy with gunfire during his egress, and suffered terrible damage to his ship. When the other destroyers and destroyer-escorts of Taffy-3 (the Task Group that the Johnston was part of) finally formed up for an attack, they met the shell-ravaged Johnston steaming away from the Japanese fleet, it's mission done. Any observer, looking upon the destruction that had been heaped upon the Johnston, would have considered the Johnston's day to be done, if not her fighting career. Cmdr. Evans, on the other hand, had a different idea. His ship, while damaged, still had functioning guns. His ship was also a fighting ship. What good is a fighting ship that doesn't fight? So, Cmdr. Evans ordered the Johnston about, to provide gun-cover for the other ships of Taffy-3 to launch their torpedoes. The Johnston was hit many more times during it's second engagement with the Japanese battleships. The Johnston eventually sank, due to the damage it had received. When the survivors of the Johnston were awaiting pick-up, a Japanese ship steamed past the group of survivors, with it's crew lined up along the railings, to salute the men, the ship, and the captain of a worthy opponent, who fought with a fierceness and tenacity far greater than their size would have indicated. Cmdr. Evans was not among the survivors.

Now, I must admit, I have used three Navy examples, rather than examples from my Beloved Corps, to show that ALL recipients of the CMOH, regardless of their branch, or area of service, are deserving of any and all respect we can give them, plus some respect we are incapable of giving, due to our human failings. The men who have been fortunate enough to survive the experience of recieving the CMOH deserve our respect, and we owe it to them to listen to what they have to say. Even Senator Robert Kerrey, Democrat from Nebraska (is he still in the Senate? I haven't checked in a while). Even though I disagree with him politically, he still has my utmost respect, because he has proven that he is willing to lay down his life for this great nation, while I have not. I have never been placed in a situation where I would have had to find out if I was willing to, but that is irrelevant. Sen. Kerrey has, and proved he was willing.

Getting a Purple Heart, on the other hand, just shows that someone wasn't smart enough to duck. Or to not fire grenade launchers at rocks. Same thing. Getting three is an indication that the recipient may want to pursue a different line of work.

No offense intended towards those who actually EARNED their Purple Hearts, but it's the one medal I'm glad I don't have.

(BTW, I served with a CWO4 who had FOUR Purple Hearts, and FOUR South-East Asia Campaign ribbons. He is the one who told me about what getting a Purple Heart means. Of course, I also wasn't going to argue with his three Silver Stars. Gunner Thompson FORGOT more about being a Marine than I will ever know. I consider myself blessed to have even served in the same Company as him. Watching him go about the business of being a Weapons Platoon Commander taught me more about the Art of Warfare than all of the books I have ever read.)

So, if it's all the same to y'all, I'll take the words of the CMOH winners over the words of a self-promoting, self-aggrandizing, self-award-writing squid any day of the week. If the men who gave their country all they had to give don't like Senator Kerry, why should I?


Semper Fidelis: Always Faithful, to God, Corps and Country