Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Fitting story for this Veterans Day

A U.S. Marine, Corporal Jason Dunham, has been awarded our nation's highest honor for his heroic act performed in combat in Iraq. Corporal Dunham will receive a posthumous Medal of Honor for throwing his body on an enemy hand grenade in a successful attempt to save his buddies. God bless Corporal Dunham for his ultimate sacrifice. This is the second Medal of Honor to come out of the Iraq war. The first one, also posthumous, was awarded to Sergeant First Class Paul Smith of the U.S. Army. Right at the beginning of the War in 2003, he did an Audie Murphy and jumped on the top of an armored personnel carrier and used its mounted machine gun to break up an enemy attack. He killed around 50 enemy before he was mortally wounded.

Although it seems like something impossible to comprehend, the act of smothering a hand grenade with one's body is not unheard of, and it seems to be a Marine thing. Several Marines on Iwo Jima and elsewhere in the World War II Pacific Theater were awarded the Medal of Honor for sacrificing themselves by smothering a Japanese hand grenade with their bodies so that not everyone in the vicinity would perish. This act is pretty much a guaranteed Medal of Honor, because your chance of surviving such an act is pretty much nil. I have read of one Marine who pulled two enemy hand grenades under him and actually survived - how, I have no idea!

On Thursday, I did my part to introduce my mostly pampered, mostly clueless students to the sacrifices some of our Veterans have made in our country's history. I showed the D-Day Airborne drop scene at the beginning of the second episode of Band of Brothers. This scene has all the intensity, but almost none of the violence and language that makes the D-Day scene from Saving Private Ryan so inappropriate to show kids of middle school age. I could tell that the scene I showed hit home with many of my students, and left some of them astonished. They had no idea of what some people in combat have been through, and I emphasized to my students that it was all done for them, so they could play their video games, listen to their hip-hop, and tool around in the mall.

I am a veteran, but I am not a combat veteran. The closest I ever came to seeing combat was spending six months in Macedonia in 1994 during the war in the former Yugoslavia. Twice, I went out to the border near Serbia with a loaded weapon, but that is the extent of it. I always stand in awe of the people I know who have actually been in the world of which very few people have experienced: the situation where people are trying to kill you, and you are trying to kill them. It has to be the most surreal feeling in the world, and it is one that I will always wonder about, but at the same time, be glad that I never had to experience.

To all our veterans, whether they have seen combat or not, I thank them on this day when we honor their service and their sacrifices.

Good Day to You, Sir.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your service.