We have a duty to our veterans.
In his 10 months in office, President Donald Trump has had the distinct privilege of presenting Medals of Honor to two of the finest, most courageous Americans living today, both of whom served in the Vietnam War.
The first was Army medic James McCloughan, who distinguished himself at age 23 in 1969 at the Battle of Nui Yon Hill. Under 48 hours of heavy enemy fire, McCloughan voluntarily, without regard for his own safety or life, braved the storm of bullets and artillery fire to rescue wounded and disoriented platoon members.
Despite suffering wounds from shrapnel and gunfire, and ignoring a direct order to stay back, McCloughan continued to seek out soldiers in need of rescue. He is credited with saving the lives of 10 members of his company and with knocking out an enemy RPG position with a grenade.
“It was as if the strength and the pride of our whole nation were beating inside Jim’s heart,” President Trump said in the July ceremony. “He just kept on going.”
The second Medal of Honor awarded by President Trump went to Army Captain Gary “Mike” Rose in October, who served as a Special Forces medic. Deep inside enemy territory on a secret mission in Laos on Sept. 11, 1970, during a four-day battle known as Operation Tailwind, Rose proved his valor. He repeatedly ran through gunfire to reach platoon members — hoisting and holding them on his back with one hand and returning fire with the other.
Rose ran, crawled, and shot his way through waves of North Vietnamese Army fire to provide medical attention to over 50 soldiers. On the second day of the mission, an RPG landed near Rose, spraying shrapnel in his back and leg and blowing a gaping hole in his foot. Using a branch as a crutch, Rose continued to expose himself to enemy fire and rescue U.S. soldiers.
At the end of this hellish mission, Rose and his team were extracted by helicopter. After Rose hobbled on board, the chopper was downed by anti-aircraft fire. Rose acted quickly and treated the injured Marine on board, saving his life, before being thrown from the helicopter as it crashed.
After the crash, Rose immediately went into lifesaving mode once again, pulling wounded and unconscious soldiers away from the wreckage before the helicopter’s explosion. Another helicopter arrived to take the soldiers back to base. According to the Army’s account, Rose refused medical treatment until others were treated first.
Four decades passed without Rose mentioning a word of his unspeakable bravery to anyone. What inspires such selflessness?
What drives such courage? Why did these two men — why do any American veterans — risk their lives in such terrible circumstances for us? Who are we, as an American people in 2017, that brave men and women should fight like this for us and for posterity? How are we deserving of those who still fight?
There are over 1.3 million men and women on active duty in the U.S., and more than 450,000 of them are currently deployed overseas. At this moment, as you read this, American soldiers are fighting in strange, unfamiliar places far from home. Some are dying. Others have been injured or crippled. When they return home as veterans, those who do return home, some bring the war back with them. Some suffer from debilitating mental conditions and PTSD, and some cannot find jobs.
Our culture is broken. The civic symbols that once united us as a people have become objects of scorn and divisiveness. The national anthem is protested. The country’s founders are demonized and their monuments torn down. America is increasingly separated into arbitrary tribes of race, class, sex, gender — each clamoring for their own interests in their us-against-them mentality and world.
Still, our soldiers fight on.
Our politics are broken. Politicians compound the tribalism tenfold and irresponsibly indebt future Americans. They exempt themselves from laws they pass on the rest of us and refuse to enforce other laws meant to protect our communities. They send our soldiers to fight without clear terms for victory or a defined mission.
Still, our soldiers fight on.
We are broken. We kill nearly one million American children each year as they grow in the womb. We don’t know the names of our neighbors. We idolize people on TV and in movies who are moral failures and hypocrites. We are drug-addicted. We wave partisan flags and constantly cut each other down both in the real world and on the internet. We view each other with contempt, even hatred.
Yet still, our soldiers fight on for us. Our veterans have fought for us. Soldiers like Jim McCloughan of South Haven, Mich., and Mike Rose of Huntsville, Ala., greatly distinguished themselves doing so.
We owe it to them, and every veteran — living and dead — to make this country a place still worth fighting for.
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Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
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