Saturday, May 27, 2017

Ex Libris

Available used for about $25, and only covers through 2002. It has 1257 pages, but if you can read more than a few of the citations without getting a little misty-eyed or choked up, you're probably dead in your soul, and dead to me.

One such citation, for a retired Vietnam-era Marine who passed away last October, should serve to illustrate the point:

for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a member of First Platoon, Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines during combat operations near the Demilitarized Zone, Republic of Vietnam. On July 24, 1966, while Company I was conducting an operation along the axis of a narrow jungle trail, the leading company elements suffered numerous casualties when they suddenly came under heavy fire from a well concealed and numerically superior enemy force. Hearing the engaged Marines' calls for more firepower, Sergeant (then Lance Corporal) Pittman quickly exchanged his rifle for a machine gun and several belts of ammunition, left the relative safety of his platoon, and unhesitatingly rushed forward to aid his comrades. Taken under intense enemy small-arms fire at point blank range during his advance, he returned the fire, silencing the enemy positions. As Sergeant Pittman continued to forge forward to aid members of the leading platoon, he again came under heavy fire from two automatic weapons which he promptly destroyed. Learning that there were additional wounded Marines fifty yards further along the trail, he braved a withering hail of enemy mortar and small-arms fire to continue onward. As he reached the position where the leading Marines had fallen, he was suddenly confronted with a bold frontal attack by 30 to 40 enemy. Totally disregarding his own safety, he calmly established a position in the middle of the trail and raked the advancing enemy with devastating machine-gun fire. His weapon rendered ineffective, he picked up a submachine gun and, together with a pistol seized from a fallen comrade, continued his lethal fire until the enemy force had withdrawn. Having exhausted his ammunition except for a grenade which he hurled at the enemy, he then rejoined his own platoon. Sergeant Pittman's daring initiative, bold fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty inflicted many enemy casualties, disrupted the enemy attack and saved the lives of many of his wounded comrades. His personal valor at grave risk to himself reflects the highest credit upon himself, the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
He earned it as a lance corporal (E-3) aged 21 years.
And he was blind in one eye before he ever joined up.

If you ever meet one of the (72, currently) living recipients, you are standing near to the closest this country has to royal nobility, if not a demigod, and certainly a statistical miracle; behave appropriately.

In WWII, 57% were posthumous awards. In Korea, it was 72%. Vietnam was 63%.
Only 3 of the 14 since 9/11 have been posthumous, but there are doubtless a number of nominations in the pipeline that will change that.

Read the book. Those people are why you're here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Never had the pleasure of meeting a MOH recipient myself (as far as I know), but my Dad received a Silver Star during World War II (one of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children). He never spoke in any detail about why he received it.

One of my major (sic) complaints about the Clint Eastwood movie Heartbreak Ridge is that it seems to me any officer who treated a MOH recipient the way the chickenshit Major treated the Gunny would have found his ass standing tall before HIS commanding officer, at which time he'd receive a thorough lesson in military etiquette. (Yes, I know there are other complaints, like Captains command companies, not Majors, and NO MOH recipient is going back into combat, ever since John Basilone was killed on Iwo Jima. Still, those are IMHO minor points in comparison.)

Mark D