PROTECTING OUR HEROES

by Don Bendell

            It must be something about the Special Forces A-Camp of Dak Seang, just south of my camp Dak Pek, it was often under total attack. During one such siege in late 1968, I got wounded a little bit just west of the camp of Dak Seang during a little spat I had with some North Vietnamese regulars. Then on April 1, 1970, SGT Gary Beikirch, a Special Forces medic, got wounded over and over, as he kept risking his life to rescue other Americans and Montagnards, for which he received the Medal of Honor, and on the same day Air Force First Lieutenant Rowland H. Worrell III, a FAC pilot, risked his life repeatedly to try to save Gary and the others, for which he received the Air Force Cross, their second highest award for honor, and then just three days later on April 4, 1970, an American Ranger, SFC Gary Lee Littrell also earned the Medal of Honor at Dak Seang by repeatedly saving the lives of his fellow Rangers and directing fire onto enemy positions, continually repelling all-out assaults by NVA.

            Dak Seang was just one tiny little spot on a map of Vietnam, almost insignificant, and surrounded by triple-canopy jungle-covered mountains on all sides and only accessible by air. It was not even a town or a village. It was simply a Special Forces A-Camp, and the stories of those three brave men are typical examples of American heroism that occurred all over the countryside at places like Vietnam, Laos, North Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan, Normandy, Bunker Hill, Hill 875, Pork Chop Hill, San Juan Hill, Corregidor, Manila, Gettysburg, and the Alamo. Maybe you served in one of these places, or your grandfather, your father, your uncle, your son, your husband, or maybe even your wife.

            I am considered by most who have read my editorials to be a staunch conservative, but this editorial is non-political. It is a call to democrats, republicans, libertarians, independents, and non-voters. I ask all veterans, and simply all concerned Americans, now to pick up; not a weapon, but your telephone, your computer, or your pen and make your voices heard on; not a partisan, but an American issue. Please click on this link:http://www.homeofheroes.com/speakout/ . It will give you the phone numbers, addresses, and websites; with maps, of your congressmen and congresswomen, governor, and White House officials no matter where you live.

            More and more everyday in America people are turning up who are judges, sheriffs, policemen, businessmen, and every profession you can think of, wearing lapel pins of miniature military medals for valor or claim to be POWs or war heroes of one sort or another. They give speeches to school kids and get honored in parades, but they all have one thing in common: Unlike the true heroes I name herein, they are total and complete phonies, who in most cases, never even served in the military. These are men and sometimes women of no scruples who should instead be wearing the Medal of Dishonor, branded on their foreheads, and their phony lapel pins should be attached with ten-penny nails driven into their cowardly flesh.  

Click here, too:reviewjournal.com — Business – STOLEN VALOR: Acts of Dishonor . Despite this very thorough, yet disheartening, look at the ever-spreading world of notables, high officials, and others literally stealing the valor of those who have served and bled in war, by wearing valorous medals and ribbons and falsely claiming war hero status without ever having heard that crack-whump sound of a bullet whizzing past your ears, or propelling a jet or plane through flak-filled skies, or sweating leagues under the sea’s surface with the heart-pounding panic-inducing fear awaiting the detonation of yet another depth charge, that notwithstanding, nothing is being done to stop the total disrespect. Despite that fine Las Vegas newspaper article only one Nevada legislator signed on to the Stolen Valor Act proposed by Representative John Salazar of Colorado (Dem) and endorsed by some, but not enough, on both sides of the aisle.  To read about the bill, go here:http://www.homeofheroes.com/herobill/index.html  or to read the bill, go here:http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:h.r.3352: 

            But, why aren’t more congressmen and women of both parties endorsing such an important bill, which will make it a felony to pose as a war hero wearing the Medal of Honor, DSC, Navy or Air Force Cross, Silver Star, or other valor awards with fines of up to $ 100,000 and up to one year in jail? Why are they not jumping on this with the zeal of a hungry lion on a broken-legged wildebeest? Because of us . . .America’s veterans. We read tomes like this and get angry and outraged, but then never call our elected officials and ask if they are endorsing this bill, and if not, ask why, then demand that they do? Years have wrinkled my skin and that of my fellow graduates of Tet University, but indifference will wrinkle our very souls.

It is an inconvenience to break from our comfortable safe routines, but what about the past inconveniences of men like Medal of Honor recipient COL Bud Day, who was shot down on August 26, 1967 over North Vietnam, where he was severely wounded with his arm broken in three places and his knee severely sprained. He was captured by communist forces and immediately taken to a prison camp and was tortured, refusing to give them any accurate information. Miraculously, Bud got them to relax their guard and escaped and evaded all the way back into Vietnam subsisting for days on jungle berries and uncooked frogs. Crossing the demilitarized zone he was mortared by US forces, but nonetheless still made it, only to be recaptured by the Viet Cong, and he was taken to the famous Hanoi Hilton where he was tortured and confined for years, all the while assuring the safety of fellow pilots by refusing to give any accurate intelligence during interrogations and setting an example of pride and courage to other POW’s.

What of the early morning aching of old war wounds from men like my friends COL Roger Donlon and former SGT Pete Lemon, both recipients of the Medal of Honor. These guys get embarrassed because, like many other vets, and generals, and even Presidents, I salute Medal of Honor recipients whenever and wherever I see them, holding my salute until they return it. I am so deeply honored to be in their presence. Then, we also have our garden variety everyday American heroes. Men who proudly served as maybe an E3 or E4  grunt with the Big Red One or First Cav Divisions or 2nd Marine Division or the 1st Flight Wing of the Air Force, or any of the myriad of proud noble US military units? What of those young men who maybe earned a Purple Heart and maybe even a Bronze Star or just a campaign ribbon? They all, each and everyone, bled on foreign soil, so that we can sit in air-conditioned comfort changing satellite channels and hearing all the dialogue in English, and we still let phonies get away with posing as one of these brave men? Please!

Will it really inconvenience us to call or write our officials or to look up their contact information? The road to failure is greased with the absolute slime of indifference, and if the Stolen Valor Act does not pass, the blame falls squarely on us. I have “seen the elephant.” In fact, I lived with the Montagnards, so I not only saw the elephant, I ate it, too. Many of you have also “seen the elephant,” and you owe that call or letter to your buddy who remained “there” as part of the soil in a strange land so far away, or the guy you shared rations with you who stepped on that mine, or that uncle who, after all these years is still listed as MIA, which to this very day causes every family member’s heart to flutter a little with a glimmer of hope every time the telephone rings.

There is always a good crop of “food for thought,” but very seldom enough enthusiasm to harvest it. This is a call to action. And remember that no farmer ever plowed his field by simply turning it over in his mind. If you think calling or writing is going out on a limb, do it anyway; That is where you will find the best fruit.

Because of the oft-times clandestine operations of Special Forces (Green Berets) and stuntman-like nature of the “Silent Professionals” the men on my A-team would jokingly say, “Medals are for Boy Scouts,” but we all really knew, as do you, that “Merit Badges are for Boy Scouts,” and “Medals are for those who earned them, or their surviving loved ones and nobody else.” I mean nobody.

Many Americans have forgotten or never even learned how to say “thank you” to our noble, courageous veterans; and if we do fail to voice those simple words, then we will never, ever end up on “speaking terms” with true valor ourselves. This simple act on our part of calling or writing a letter to our representatives or senators can be one small way to show our gratitude. Phony heroism is getting contagious, and to allow the “crooks of cowardice” to steal the valor of our true American heroes robs us all of our rich heritage of freedom, which was fertilized with the spilled blood of the valiant. It is our legacy of valor, of courage, of honor, an exclusively-American treasure that is absolutely priceless. Please, act now and also pray for our young courageous fighting men and women in harm’s way . . . and welcome home.

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