I think of my dad as one of those unsung heroes whose plane was shot down and wounded with shrapnel in his leg and arm, he hurried to hide his parachute, and then helped a fellow servicemen once he landed nearby to hide his parachute. Both men were captured by the Germans. He was only 16 and wouldn’t have even been called up for duty before the war ended. He survived several death marches and 16 months of starvation before he was freed from a German POW camp. He’d been wounded in an early operation and had been recovering for six months when his crew went down with all hands lost. We swear he had a guardian angel looking after him.
I was watching a series about Medal of Honor recipients, some who died while conducting amazing feats of heroism, some who managed to survive their harrowing experiences. It’s horrible to see the discrimination against our black soldiers (WWII), yet in earlier wars they received Medals of Honor, no problem. The man was a soldier at heart, a leader of men, and knew four languages, including German. Without hesitation, he volunteered to take out a fortification that had the whole unit pinned down. His men all died, but severely wounded, he did it, and brought back two prisoners, interrogating them the whole time, and learning where other fortifications were since he spoke and understood German.
Then there was discrimination against a Japanese American who was finally allowed to serve and his heroism earned him a Medal of Honor after his courage and perseverance drove him to fight off an overwhelming force on his own, to take out German machine gun nests, and despite being badly wounded, survived.
A man who had poor vision and was repeatedly given a 4F category, disqualified him for duty and yet when they finally allowed him to join (as a cook, initially), he ended up fighting what should have been a losing battle for anyone. Hold a town against an advancing German army to allow their own army time to retreat. He ended up alone, once his squad members were all killed when taking in German prisoners and it was just a feint. Even one German commander said he’d never seen such fierce fighting, not even on the Russian front! One man wearing glasses did it! One man.
In another, one sergeant was left to man 4 machine gun nests against hoards of Chinese in Korea. He ran back and forth between nests, shooting the whole time, trying to stop the Chinese from taking the hill. Only one other man was alive, badly injured and all he could do was toss grenades. Everyone else was dead. The Chinese withdrew, most likely believing all the nests were being manned.
In all these cases, these men didn’t see themselves as heroes. They did what they had to do to protect their own, to do the mission. They were humble about earning the medal, not believing when the word came down that they were a recipient. They wear the honor not only for the heroism they displayed, but also for all those men and women who died or were wounded or suffered otherwise in the conflicts.
I was watching a Youtube video a couple of years back of a man who went to rescue someone in a bad car accident, but before he did, he took the time to set his phone up to record his heroic action.
The men who earned the Medal of Honor rushed into battle to save others with no thought of recognition, most knowing that it was their day to die. How many of us could do that?
Very few. So hug a vet today, tomorrow and the next. And thank them for their service.
“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy is reality.”
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