November 11, 2008

Medal of Honor: A Veteran's Day Post

Last week, Mr. Cool and I stayed up late watching a documentary on PBS on the Medal of Honor and its recipients. Mr. Cool knows he can always suck me in to anything military as long as they mention the Civil War. It was fascinating, and we spent a good deal of time this weekend reading about the Medal of Honor. I learned about some amazing men and women who have served our country above and beyond, and I wanted to quickly share some of my favorite honorees.

Tibor Rubin, a Hungarian immigrant, was placed in a Nazi concentration camp at the age of 13, until liberated by American troops. He wanted to go to the U.S. to become a G.I. Joe, and although he struggled with the language test, eventually made it. He served in Korea, under an anti-Semitic commander who tried to kill him. Unfortunately, he was just too darn good at soldiering. He was later taken captive and held as a prisoner of war, where he stole food for his fellow captives and worked hard to domitzvahs (good deeds) as his late mother had taught him.

The other story that shocked and surprised me involved Admiral Stockdale. Yes, the same Admiral James Stockdale who served as Ross Perot's running mate in the 1992 election and famously said, "Who am I? Why am I here?" at the VP debate. He has been the butt of many jokes ever since, when in reality his Medal of Honor citation is incredible. I find I must quote it, rather than trying to re-tell the story:
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while senior naval officer in the Prisoner of War camps of North Vietnam. Recognized by his captors as the leader in the Prisoners' of War resistance to interrogation and in their refusal to participate in propaganda exploitation, Rear Adm. Stockdale was singled out for interrogation and attendant torture after he was detected in a covert communications attempt. Sensing the start of another purge, and aware that his earlier efforts at self-disfiguration to dissuade his captors from exploiting him for propaganda purposes had resulted in cruel and agonizing punishment, Rear Adm. Stockdale resolved to make himself a symbol of resistance regardless of personal sacrifice. He deliberately inflicted a near-mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate. He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated in their employment of excessive harassment and torture toward all of the Prisoners of War. By his heroic action, at great peril to himself, he earned the everlasting gratitude of his fellow prisoners and of his country. Rear Adm. Stockdale's valiant leadership and extraordinary courage in a hostile environment sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
I hope today you will take a chance to learn about the many Medal of Honor recipients, including Vernon Baker, originally from Cheyenne, WY, "Hershey" Miyamura, raised in New Mexico, and the four heroes from Pueblo, CO. And, if you really are a Civil War nerd like me, reading the various citations from the Civil War is a great way to kill some time. Of course, thanks to any and all veterans who read this blog, and a special thanks to my family who has served in the military: my Grandpa Bill, my father-in-law George, and my brother-in-law Matthew.

I'll close this rather long post with a quote:
"We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." ~Winston Churchill (Mr. Cool's oft-quoted quote)


Colrado Dad said...

This is just a little correction form Matt's dad. Military members are Medal of Honor recipients, not "winners". They get very upset when people call them winners. They will say they are keeping the medal for their friends that did not return.

Amanda said...

Oops--I guess my typical experience with medal winners involves the Olympics. Thanks for the correction!