February 04, 2005

Extraordinary Americans

For a number of reasons, none of which I have time to go into here, I have spent some precious minutes today reading Congressional Medal of Honor citations. These are extraordinary documents describing extraordinary Americans performing extraordinary deeds. I could never imagine myself, under the circumstances, performing as superlatively as these Americans have. The Medal of Honor is given to individual members of the United States armed forces who demonstrate conspicuous valor in action against an enemy force. The citations make for compelling reading and it is hard to tear yourself away from them, but they all have one thing in common: courage. Imagine, if you will, how you would have reacted if you were Navy Corpsman Donald E. Ballard:


Rank and organization: Hospital Corpsman Second Class, U.S. Navy, Company M, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines, 3d Marine Division. Place and date: Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam, 16 May 1968. Entered service at: Kansas City, Mo. Born: 5 December 1945, Kansas City, Mo. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty while serving as a HC2c. with Company M, in connection with operations against enemy aggressor forces. During the afternoon hours, Company M was moving to join the remainder of the 3d Battalion in Quang Tri Province. After treating and evacuating 2 heat casualties, HC2c. Ballard was returning to his platoon from the evacuation landing zone when the company was ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army unit employing automatic weapons and mortars, and sustained numerous casualties. Observing a wounded marine, HC2c. Ballard unhesitatingly moved across the fire swept terrain to the injured man and swiftly rendered medical assistance to his comrade. HC2c. Ballard then directed 4 marines to carry the casualty to a position of relative safety. As the 4 men prepared to move the wounded marine, an enemy soldier suddenly left his concealed position and, after hurling a hand grenade which landed near the casualty, commenced firing upon the small group of men. Instantly shouting a warning to the marines, HC2c. Ballard fearlessly threw himself upon the lethal explosive device to protect his comrades from the deadly blast. When the grenade failed to detonate, he calmly arose from his dangerous position and resolutely continued his determined efforts in treating other marine casualties. HC2c. Ballard's heroic actions and selfless concern for the welfare of his companions served to inspire all who observed him and prevented possible injury or death to his fellow marines. His courage, daring initiative, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of extreme personal danger, sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Extraordinary, isn't it?

One problem with reading these is that you will be struck by how many of these men bear an asterisk next to their name, indicating that the award of posthumous.

Posted by Random Penseur at February 4, 2005 12:49 PM

I was about to mention that asterisk myself. At Balboa Naval Hospital, where I went through Corpsman training, there is a wall of plaques of Corpsmen awarded the CMH. The majority of them were awarded posthumously. It is a very sober and respected area of the hospital.

Posted by: Jim at February 4, 2005 02:09 PM
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