Bird Droppings January 18, 2022
Can we say true heroism and humility are spelled the same?
“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” Arthur Ashe
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 develop a perhaps catchy title for my daily morning wanderings. I sat and listened to our past President after the shooting of Congresswoman Gilford nearly ten years ago. He spoke to a group in Arizona at a memorial service for those killed in the shooting in Tuscan. I will admit his words moved me as I think most people in this nation were. It is another special person who was at the scene as it happened words I will start today with.
“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 by President Barrack Obama
As he was interviewed, Daniel 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 servicemen 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. Knowing we would lose many men, this idea was formulated as the Japanese were well fortified and dug in. The battle on Iwo Jima was a blood bath. 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 jumped from his ship to the pontoons. As he looked over the scene, it was not good that the young man’s leg had been tangled in the pontoons’ chains. His right leg was in shambles and nearly sheared off from the chain’s movement with the waves. My father had to move quickly. Tanks and waves were shoving the pontoons together as they moved. Dad jumped down between the pontoons explained he would need to amputate the young Marines leg 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 Marine’s leg.
As the pontoons came together, dad threw the young man up onto the nearest pontoon, climbed up and cauterized, and sutured his wound. Add to this machine-gun fire and mortar rounds all around as well. Dad then lifted the young man and carried him down the beachfront to the hospital 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, 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 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 to save his life. Another few minutes were 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 put in for a purple heart to get a better-handicapped parking space. He was in his eighties at the time.
Heroism and humility are spelled differently, 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. A congresswoman chose to meet with her constituents one on one in public. While he claims he is not the hero, a young man did not hesitate when the shots rang out and did what he could. I also saw our past President, whose gray hair was more noticeable now standing before the families of those lost and grieving, talking about healing. We have a nation of heroes; it seems 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 isn’t easy on some days to try and sort and reflect. Yet, in our reflections, we can find solutions in government, family, friends, or education that I tend to tie in loosely each day I write. Today let us all reflect on our heroes and keep all of those in harm’s way on our minds and hearts and always give thanks namaste.
“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.” Thomas Merton
My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)