Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Let me preface this by pointing out that I spent four years in the Navy, and started boot camp about a month after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Both of my paternal uncles also served in the Navy. My dad's brother was a Russian linguist during Vietnam and his brother-in-law was a nuke on subs for 11 years.

I live in Hampton Roads, home of the largest navy base in the world. This area is also filled with people in every other branch of the military as well. I work at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, fixing one ship after another, to make sure that those ships will not fail their crew when they're deployed. Most of those sailors are good, hardworking men and women. Some of them, like in any group of people, are assholes. But what I'm about to say isn't directed at either of those groups. There's a very special group of military personnel that has motivated this rant. For that select group, I have this to say:

Simply being in the military does not make you a fucking hero.

Let me clarify this a bit. First, there's nothing even remotely heroic about any part of most of the jobs being done by people in our military. Admirable, yes. Heroic, no. Second, and more importantly, if you ever feel any compulsion to call yourself a hero, you aren't. I've met REAL heroes. Not one of them thought that what they did was heroic. Most of them just get embarrassed talking about what they did if people start calling it heroic.

Here's an example of a real hero.


Brian Thacker lived next door to my parents, and flew hanggliders with them. None of us ever knew that he'd been awarded the Medal of Honor until I spotted a picture related to that award in an open box when we helped him move. I had to ask my parents what it was, because I was only 12 or so at the time. Later on, in high school, I was given an assignment to interview someone to talk about their experiences in the 60s. I interviewed Brian, and he described his experiences in Vietnam in detail, except that he never mentioned receiving the CMoH.

Now, because it just can't be posted in enough places as far as I'm concerned, here's the text posted at the link above.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 1st Lt. Thacker, Field Artillery, Battery A, distinguished himself while serving as the team leader of an Integrated Observation System collocated with elements of 2 Army of the Republic of Vietnam units at Fire Base 6. A numerically superior North Vietnamese Army force launched a well-planned, dawn attack on the small, isolated, hilltop fire base. Employing rockets, grenades, flame-throwers, and automatic weapons, the enemy forces penetrated the perimeter defenses and engaged the defenders in hand-to-hand combat. Throughout the morning and early afternoon, 1st Lt. Thacker rallied and encouraged the U.S. and Republic of Vietnam soldiers in heroic efforts to repulse the enemy. He occupied a dangerously exposed observation position for a period of 4 hours while directing friendly air strikes and...against the assaulting enemy forces. His personal bravery and inspired leadership enabled the outnumbered friendly forces to inflict a maximum of casualties on the attacking enemy forces and prevented the base from being overrun. By late afternoon, the situation had become untenable. 1st Lt. Thacker organized and directed the withdrawal of the remaining friendly forces. With complete disregard for his safety, he remained inside the perimeter alone to provide covering fire with his M-16 rifle until all other friendly forces had escaped from the besieged fire base. Then, in an act of supreme courage, he called for friendly artillery fire on his own position to allow his comrades more time to withdraw safely from the area and, at the same time, inflict even greater casualties on the enemy forces. Although wounded and unable to escape from the area himself, he successfully eluded the enemy forces for 8 days until friendly forces regained control of the fire base. The extraordinary courage and selflessness displayed by 1st Lt. Thacker were an inspiration to his comrades and are in the highest traditions of the military service.

1 comment:

Cargosquid said...


Retired after 25 years in the Canoe Club. Every time I get thanked...I get embarrassed and tell the nice people to go find someone that actually gets shot at.....nicely of course.