Writing with my Father part 3; On Winning a Bronze Star
Note: I’ve written before about helping my father write his memoirs. You can read
more in this blog on 18/08/10 and 11/12/10.
From my father:
When we started to return somebody said, “ Hey, look. We’re in a mine field.” I looked and there were little wires sticking up. The mines were called, “Bouncing Betties.” When set off, they would jump up two or three feet and then explode. The idea was to kill or wound as many men as possible. In our minds we could feel the mines exploding into our private parts. We were already scared but I said, “Follow me.” I walked very slowly and carefully. The squad members were content to stay behind me. One man was wounded by a mine when he stepped out of line. Later he died. When we got back to my company they made a big deal out of me getting the men out of the minefield. I was regarded as a hero, but I should have been criticized for taking them in, in the first place.
Note from Warren
For this part of the memoir, I did a few line edits and got out of the way of my father telling his story. I’ve witnessed his attitude about earning a medal and being considered a hero in other members of his Division. When called a hero the universal answer is, “I am not a hero. The real heroes never came home.” He maintained the many outstanding acts of bravery were not witnessed and that getting a medal was based on someone seeing the act and pushing the paperwork.
On November 11, 2010, I watched a segment of the television show 60 Minutes about Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta, who became the first living soldier to receive a Medal of Honor since the war in Viet Nam. He seemed embarrassed to be in his words, “singled out” when so many people were doing so much. He described himself as an “Average” and a “Mediocre” soldier who did only “What anyone else would have done.” He said that members of his unit who died were the only people,
“who gave their all for their country.” He credited his medal to somebody else filling out forms and talking to other people, not to his own actions. His award was for repeatedly charging into enemy fire to save other solders despite being shot twice. He was considered extremely brave in the face of almost certain death.
The Staff Sergeant maintained that he was never in a firefight without others in his unit supporting him. He said he accepted the medal on behalf of all who have served their country.
What does “heroism” mean to you?