The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.
– Calvin Coolidge
To have really lived, you must have almost died. To those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.
– Scrawled on a bunker outside Khe Sanh, Republic of Vietnam
Courage is the most important virtue because, without courage, it is impossible to practice the other virtues.
To a large extent, memory is what makes us human. It is who we are. That is why memory loss is so tragic, both for individuals and for a nation. But how good is our national memory? Are we developing national Alzheimer’s? Let’s see.
Test your memory:
What are these men doing?
a. Advertising chili cheese burritos.
b. Auctioning repossessed cars.
c. Auditioning for “American Idol.”
d. Saving 2,687 people (but not themselves) on 9/11.
Rick Rescorla, chief of security for Morgan Stanley, safely evacuated all 2,687 employees on 9/11 – except for six. Four of the six were himself and his three deputies (two pictured above): Wesley Mercer, Jorge Velasquez, and Godwin Forde. That’s true multiculturalism. Rick led his people to safety while shouting encouragement and singing songs through a bullhorn.
Rick was last seen going back into Tower 2 shortly before its collapse. When he was told he should get out, he replied, “As soon as I make sure everyone else is out.” His body was never recovered, but U.S. troops at Fallujah remembered him well.
Rick was a hero in Vietnam − prophetically, his photo is on the cover of “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young.” In the film “We Were Soldiers,” he was the young soldier who picked up a bugle dropped by the enemy. Those who knew him would not be surprised that he was a hero again on 9/11. Instead of the slim young officer he was in Vietnam, Rick was now middle aged, overweight, and afflicted by cancer. But inwardly, he was still the same man. You can’t tell a hero by outward appearance – you have to watch what he does under pressure.
It would be incorrect to say that Rescorla has been forgotten by the vast majority of Americans – they never heard of him in the first place. The mainstream media, like their leftist cousins in Europe, often depict Americans as oppressors, but rarely as heroes, even dead ones.
What did this man say that made him famous?
a. What’s for lunch?
b. Give me a Jack Daniel’s, rocks.
c. Can I have a pillow?
d. God help me. Jesus help me. Are you ready? Let’s roll!
Todd Beamer, a devout Christian, was a “take-charge” kind of guy. He had played basketball and baseball in college. Beamer had a pregnant wife and two sons aged three and one. He was a passenger on United Flight 93. The film “United 93” shows only a small part of his heroism on 9/11 and − like much of our media − omits anything of religious significance.
But what happened was verified by the telephone supervisor with whom he spoke. They recited the Lord’s Prayer together, and he made her promise she would tell his wife and sons that he loved them. Todd Beamer then said his timeless words. He played a key role in the passengers’ revolt against the terrorists. As a result, the airliner crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, and not into the Capitol Building or the White House, thereby saving many lives.
We are not responsible for the media’s anti-religious bias. But we are responsible if we forget Todd Beamer and what motivated his heroic actions.
Who is this man?
a. A homeless person.
b. A bass guitar player in a rock band.
c. A model for outdoor clothing.
d. A SEAL.
Michael Murphy graduated with honors from Penn State with dual degrees in political science and psychology. Then he accepted a commission in the U.S. Navy and completed extremely rigorous training to qualify as a SEAL. Murphy led a four-man unit on a mission to find a top Taliban leader. They were surrounded by vastly larger Taliban force in Afghanistan. Despite overwhelming odds, the SEALs held off the enemy for two hours.
But the SEALs were in a dead spot for radio reception. To call for backup, Murphy intentionally exposed himself to heavy gunfire to reach higher ground. As a result, he successfully called in support, said “Thank you,” and was killed. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. Of the 16 Medals of Honor awarded for service in Iraq or Afghanistan, seven were posthumous.
This episode is vividly described by Marcus Luttrell, the only one of the group who survived, in “Lone Survivor.” If you want to learn about courage, loyalty, and the will to survive and overcome, read it or watch the movie.
Who is this man?
a. A track coach at the University of Southern California.
b. A trainer at Gold’s Gym.
c. A manager at Home Depot.
d. A U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Brian Terry was born in Michigan, one of four siblings. He ran cross-country in high school. Brian served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, then graduated from a local college as class president with a degree in criminal justice.
Terry served as a local police officer, then graduated from the U.S. Border Patrol Academy as class president. He was assigned to a Border Patrol station in Arizona, but he remained close to his family. For the first time in three years, in 2010 his family looked forward to spending Christmas with him. Brian did come home for Christmas, but not in the way they had hoped.
Brian Terry volunteered for the Border Patrol Tactical Unit and completed the rigorous training. On December 14, 2010 he was conducting operations as a member of the Tactical Unit near Rio Rico, Arizona. Terry and his team encountered a “rip crew,” which robs and assaults immigrants and drug runners. Terry was shot in the back and fatally wounded.
Intensifying the family’s grief, at least one of the guns found on the offenders was traced to the “Fast and Furious” program of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Under this ill-conceived and clumsily executed program, thousands of guns were allowed to be bought illegally and transferred to Mexican drug runners. Apparently the idea was to “prove” that the United States was the source of most guns used in Mexico by criminals, thereby providing a rationale for making U.S. gun laws more stringent.
Our military and law-enforcement personnel risk their lives to keep us safe. We expect that our government will give them the best equipment, training, and leadership. But we demand that our government not make their jobs even more dangerous in order to further some political agenda.
When we speak about loyalty, we usually mean loyalty to one’s comrades and one’s leaders. But leaders must also be loyal to their personnel. Loyalty is like an electric current. It must go up the organization and then down again. Otherwise the circuit is broken, and the lights go out.
How did you do on this mini-test? How good is your memory? But regardless of how well it is functioning, we can agree that America could benefit from a memory upgrade. Let’s resume teaching real American history and civics in schools – for example, William Bennett’s “America, the Last Best Hope” or Schweikart and Allen’s “A Patriot’s History of the United States. These are far preferable to the anti-American textbooks often used today.
We need to remember our heroes of the past, and what they fought and died to preserve for us. Then we will be able to appreciate and honor our current heroes. How many of the 16 recent recipients of the Medal of Honor can you name? Can you name even one? Have you seen stories about them in newspapers or on TV? If not, what does this reveal about the mainstream media?
Misdeeds by a few troops at Abu Ghraib? On the front page of the New York Times for 32 consecutive days. But deeds of heroism and self-sacrifice? On an inner page, if they are mentioned at all. You want to see how a hero should be honored? Watch the last part of the video of Mark Donaldson being awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for valor in the British Commonwealth, for his service in Afghanistan.
Have any of our recipients of the Medal of Honor been given such a tribute on network TV? No? Why not? What’s wrong with us that isn’t wrong with the Aussies?
Once we remember where we come from and who we are, we will be able to decide where we want to go and who we want to be − and necessarily, where we don’t want to go and who we don’t want to be. As Norman Cousins wrote, “History is a vast early-warning system.” But it is also a very costly, and therefore very precious, source of role models.
Have you made a donation to send Care packages to our troops? Have you signed up with Concerned Veterans for America to improve health care at Veterans Affairs hospitals? Have you stopped a service member in an airport, shaken his or her hand, and offered to buy lunch? Have you visited a National Cemetery and said “Thank you” on Memorial Day?
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