Where Do We Get Such Men?
On the front page of the USA Today I got at my hotel today was a story of such stunning power that I was left teary-eyed and shaken. While the story is focused mostly on the guilt survivors may feel when heroes have sacrificed their lives for them, I was drawn to the word portraits of the lost heroes themselves. An excerpt:
Last September, Petty Officer Michael Monsoor, 25, of Garden Grove, Calif., fell on a grenade that landed on a rooftop in Ramadi, where he and two other Navy SEALs were stationed as part of a sniper team. Monsoor saved the lives of the other two.That's the part of the story that really got me; all of us who are or have been in the military know that there are circumstances where we might have to sacrifice ourselves for our buddies, or shipmates, or whatever we call our brothers in arms. Most of us never have to actually face that choice, of course; the heroes in this story did, and in the most sacred tradition of the U.S. military, met their fates with dignity and honor.
"You think about him every day. And everything pretty much revolves around what he did," says a 29-year-old Navy lieutenant with the SEALs, married and the father of one... "You'd like to tell yourself that you'd do what Mikey did. But until you're faced with that situation, you really don't know."
Submariners nowadays don't normally have to make those choices, but back in WWII, they did. The submariner who most closely fits the profile of the heroes discussed in the article is CDR Howard Gilmore, CO of USS Growler (SS 215), in early 1942. His Medal of Honor citation says it best:
In the darkness of night on 7 February, an enemy gunboat closed range and prepared to ram the Growler. Comdr. Gilmore daringly maneuvered to avoid the crash and rammed the attacker instead, ripping into her port side at 11 knots and bursting wide her plates. In the terrific fire of the sinking gunboat's heavy machineguns, Comdr. Gilmore calmly gave the order to clear the bridge, and refusing safety for himself, remained on deck while his men preceded him below. Struck down by the fusillade of bullets and having done his utmost against the enemy, in his final living moments, Comdr. Gilmore gave his last order to the officer of the deck, "Take her down." The Growler dived; seriously damaged but under control, she was brought safely to port by her well-trained crew inspired by the courageous fighting spirit of their dead captain.CDR Gilmore knew that his crew would try to save him if he let them, but in doing so would risk the loss of the submarine. Like the heroes in Iraq who covered grenades with their bodies to save their brothers, he freely sacrificed himself to save his crew. And as CDR Gilmore's memory was honored by a grateful nation with the awarding of our highest decoration, so too should the sacrifice of the more recent heroes be honored.
Neptunus Lex also commented on the story, and adds this highly appropriate conclusion:
We must instead remember them, tell their names, tell the stories of those who loved so much that they gave their own lives. There will be many, of course, too many to list. But we can start with these:(Links above were added by me.) That verse is the most appropriate way to describe these heroes. As Christ gave his life that all of us could have eternal life, these men gave their lives so their brothers could continue in this life. Greater love has no one, indeed.