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November 12, 2002



The Meaning of the Word "Hero"

Letters to the Editor

Richard C. Black Del. Richard C. Black, R-32, Sterling

Nov 11, 2002 -- Editor, Leesburg Today: 

Today, the word "hero" often denotes a sports figure or media darling, someone rich, famous, and popular. But real heroes aren't about fame or fortune. They're about courage and sacrifice, of giving and asking nothing in return. This Veterans Day, we reflect upon the courage of those fallen heroes.

I'm reminded of a warm, sunny day on a field or rice in Vietnam. The previous day was filled with the ear-splitting roar of gunfire, endless explosions, and the flash or tracers lasting throughout the night. Now, the rice paddy was calm and still. The fight was over. It was April 22, 1967, when we walked across the silent field-so utterly peaceful. A soft breeze gently touched the blonde hair of one fallen Marine. Several men helped me gather our lost heroes, the men of Fox Company, 1st Marine Regiment. Those 36 dead and their 54 wounded comrades typified the raw courage of those we remember this Veterans Day.

Lt. Gates fell leading his 3rd Platoon in a charge. Staff Sergeant Shelton, his platoon sergeant, lay beside him. Riflemen strewn across the fields gave silent testimony to the desperate struggle to breach the enemy lines.

Off to the right, Sgt. Arendondo had died leading five, isolated Marines of the 2nd Platoon in a stunning charge against the flank of a 1200-man North Vietnamese force. All but one Marine died charging the startled enemy. The lone survivor, Corporal Franco, was wounded so badly the North Vietnamese mistook him for dead.

We found PFC Martini and laid him among rows of casualties for evacuation. After a day of extraordinary valor, he dashed into a hail of gunfire to rescue a fallen comrade. Mortally wounded, he died dragging the injured Marine to safety. Martini got the Medal of Honor, and was buried in Charleston, WV.

The blood of American heroes lies on the fields of Bunker Hill and Gettysburg; at Vicksburg and the Belleau Wood; at Normandy Beach and Iwo Jima; at Heartbreak Ridge at Hue City. Our hero's blood also lies on a quiet field of rice at a place called Nui Lac Son.

Countless GIs have paid the final price during heroic encounters in the sky, on the sea, and in jungles and deserts across the globe. This Veterans Day, we commemorate those who were the ultimate guarantors of freedom. They were our finest sons - America's real heroes.

We remember these heroes today. God bless America.


2002, by Leesburg Today Newspaper

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