30 May 2006

I took my own advice yesterday; after writing my Memorial Day blog, I Googled Private Rodger Young.

Oh my goodness, what a guy!

I am, ahem, something of a history buff. As I pass through time, there have been people out of history I have known, and many more that I wish I had.

Private Young is one of the people I wish I'd had the honour of knowing.

I have a thing for people who live their lives with integrity. Private Young had to have been one of the most honourable men to have drawn breath, but I think, after learning more about this American hero yesterday, he would have been the very first to deny he was anything special.

And to me, that speaks of bone marrow deep integrity.

I also Googled Pat Tillman. Another American hero, and another man who would have been right there Johnny on the denial spot.

Both men are the textbook definition of American.

The reason they are heroes is not that they died in hostile action. They are heroes because of the motivations that put them in hostile territory in the first place.

In January 1938, Rodger W. Young and one of his brothers joined the Ohio National Guard. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and the US mobilised, the brothers were 'federalized' along with the rest of their National Guard company, into the US Army. Like most young men of the time, they were, by all accounts, happy to serve. Theirs was a 'good' war, and they were ready to die to keep Ohio and the USA free from invasion.

Private Young became Staff Sergeant Young, and he was rather proud of his accomplishment, and his leadership of his men.

But in late spring and early summer of 1943 he came to realize he was losing his hearing. He believed that his hearing loss would place his men into danger, and he actually requested a demotion to private.

His commanding officer was, according to the records, somewhat skeptical. By that first week of July, 1943, he'd heard all kinds of justifications for a soldiers removal from combat and he thought he'd just heard another. But SSgt Young persisted, and managed to convey to his CO that he wasn't trying to achieve removal from the combat zone, just removal from a leadership role in the platoon.

After a medical exam which confirmed Young's profound hearing loss, he was "demoted to the rank of private, without prejudice." BTW, back in those days, most CO's were not career officers, just regular guys, and this one apologized to now Private Young for his initial doubts.

And that, to me, is when Rodger Young became the quintessential American Hero. Not when three weeks later, as his platoon was pinned down by a Japanese sniper nest and he saved the lives of his platoon by crawling through the brush to throw a grenade into the midst of the enemy entrenchment. Despite his initial wounds, his continued machine gun inflicted wounds including the fatal volley taken in the face and head as he rose from the jungle floor, pulling the pin from the grenade with his teeth. He was just 25 years old.

Years later, writing about that day, a comrade said of him that Rodger Young was the Pacific Theater's Audie Murphy; the only difference between the two being Murphy lived, and Young did not.

We need heroes, all peoples do. It is the responsibility of the adult generation to behave heroically for the sake of our children, that they in turn know how to do so for their children.

We have to have the right definition of the word, and we need modern day heroes that have clay feet right up to their armpits so that no rat bastard whisperer can lead our little ones astray by saying, "Yeah well, that was then, this is now."

His name is Pat Tillman. He was 27 years old the day he died, in what appears to be a friendly-fire nightmare, in a country where civilian contractors and their evil behaviour has turned a grateful people against our American troops. (New York Times, Washington Post, October 4-6, 2004)

He of all people had no reason to be there, if one defines a reason for being there cynically, as most do nowadays.

But he believed he should be there.

He believed because he loved this country, loved it so much, he and his brother Kevin, that they walked away (quietly-no fanfare) from highly lucrative professional sports careers to join the Army. They walked away from 'the good life' of fame, fortune, opportunity.

More importantly, these two men, who had their priorities straight, went to war to protect the really good life-family and friends, and a safe hometown. Because they believed the opportunities they had as Americans should be defended. Because they felt they were doing the right thing.

More on Pat Tillman later. You should Google him. He wasn't some Pentagon poster boy-he was apparently anti-Bush, and especially anti-war.

But he wasn't anti-America.

We need to teach our kids about guys like him.

I am so glad to see we are still breeding real Americans here.

And if that ain't the quintessential, what is?

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