Bird Droppings January 7, 2016
Can we say true heroism and humility are spelled the same?
Even though I am one of the worst spellers in this local area, I know heroism and humility are technically spelled differently. I will concede to using words to come up with a perhaps catchy title for my daily morning wanderings. I sat and listened to our President after the shooting of Congresswomen Gilford’s nearly five years ago as he spoke to a group in Arizona at a memorial service for those killed in the shooting in Tuscan. I will admit I was moved by his words as I think most people in this nation were.
“Though I appreciate the sentiment, I must humbly reject the title of hero because I am not one of them,” “We must reject the title of hero and reserve it for those who deserve it.” Daniel Hernandez, twenty year old intern of Congresswomen Gilford credited with saving her life by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and President Barrack Obama
Daniel as he was interviewed went on to say the real heroes were the First responders’ and doctors and nurses that cared for the injured and prevented any additional loss of life. As I ponder this morning a young man jumping into the fray as he heard gunshots as do many of our service men and women and saying he is not the hero is a humbling moment for me.
I recall my father and stories of World War II and the battle of Iwo Jima in the South Pacific. For you non-history buffs the US military brass had come up with a plan to island hop through the South Pacific to Japan as a means to end the war. (By chance I am grading papers on Truman’s decision to drop the A bomb made me think of this)
This idea was formulated knowing we would lose many men as the Japanese were well fortified and dug in. Iwo Jima was a blood bath to say the least. US Marines were dropping as they left the landing craft or pontoon bridges from the LSM’s. My father was a medic on an LSM. This was a boat with a drop open front to allow landing craft and tanks to roll out into shallow water or onto pontoon bridges along with the Marines who were on board as well. As my father tells the story a young Marine nineteen at the time had fallen between two pontoons. These structures are large enough to support a tank and chained together to make bridges from sea craft to shore.
My father heard the young man’s call for help and jump from his boat to the pontoons. As he looked over the scene it was not good the young man’s leg had been tangled in the chains connecting the pontoons. His right leg was in shambles and nearly sheared off from the chains movement with the waves. My father had to move quickly. The pontoons were being shoved together by tanks and waves as they moved. Dad jumped down between the pontoons explained he would need to amputate the young Marines leg in order to get him to safety. He offered a swig of whiskey that he carried in a flask for such ordeals in his back pocket. The young Marine said he did not drink. Using his Navy survival knife he poured some of the whiskey on the knife and proceeded to take off the Marines leg.
As the pontoons came together dad threw the young man up on to the nearest pontoon climbed up and cauterized and sutured his wound as best he could in that situation. Around him machine gun fire and mortar rounds passing by as well. Dad then lifted the young man and carried him down the beach front to the hospital ship outgoing landing craft.
Across my father’s Navy shirt was embroidered his nickname on board the LSM, DOC. The Navy and Marine corpsmen saw him and heard him barking medical orders about the injury and assumed he was an officer. The young man was given priority and made it to the hospital ship and did survive. Sounds simple yet during the several hundred yard walk down the beach the dug in Marines were yelling at my father to get down and bullets were whistling all around him. As he would say as he told the story a guardian angel was watching over him is all he could recall. He said he was in a daze as he carried the young Marine it was what he had to do in order to save his life. Another few minutes wasted and he would have died on the beach.
It was days later when questioned about the incident by his commander he was offered a heroism medal from the Navy but being a young college man himself he asked if he could get a raise instead of a medal. It was not until many years later when he was going for health care to the VA hospital he actually put in for a purple heart so he could get a better handicapped parking space he was in his eighties at the time.
Heroism and humility spelled differently perhaps, but there is a fine line connecting the two. It has not been that long ago that the first Medal of Honor was given to a living soldier in many years. We seem to have far too few heroes in today’s world. I look to a shooting in Arizona and see several. There was a nine year old girl who believed in her country and in her congresswomen enough to be there to see her. There is a congresswoman who chose to meet with her constituent’s one on one in public. While he claims he is not the hero a young man who did not hesitate when the shots rang out and did what he could. I also saw our President whose gray hair is more noticeable now standing before the families of those lost and grieving talking about healing. We do have a nation of heroes it seems if we so chose to look about. As I think back to that day and another comment by Daniel Hernandez.
“On Saturday, we all became Arizonans, and above all, we all became Americans,” Daniel Hernandez
It is difficult on some days to try and sort and reflect. Yet it is in our reflections we can find solutions, be it in government, family, friends, or in education that I tend to tie in loosely each day I write. Today let us all reflect on our heroes and also keep all of those in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and to always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)