The Internet Monk
"A Look Back" by IM History Writer Bart Campbell
An Honorable Company
Discovering 3400 Who Made Our Freedom Possible
by Bart Campbell
Do we really know what the face of bravery looks like? Do we really understand the level of sacrifice and dedication that has been put forth by our defenders of freedom? I think not.
Last night, as I sat on my couch feeding my infant son, I began to surf the endless collage of cable television channels. I just wanted to find something light – entertaining, something that wouldn’t provoke emotional investment…The Beverly Hillbillies, maybe. Instead, I happened upon CSPAN-2.
I don’t know what first caught my eye. Maybe it was The President. For
whatever reason, I stopped. I then noticed that the scrolling text at
the bottom of the screen said “Presentation of The Congressional Medal
Of Honor ceremony earlier today”. That got me. I had never seen one of
those before and decided to watch. I happened to tune in during the part
of the ceremony when the accounts of the actions taken by the recipients
were being recounted. Lucky me. I mean that.
I don’t know what first caught my eye. Maybe it was The President. For whatever reason, I stopped. I then noticed that the scrolling text at the bottom of the screen said “Presentation of The Congressional Medal Of Honor ceremony earlier today”. That got me. I had never seen one of those before and decided to watch. I happened to tune in during the part of the ceremony when the accounts of the actions taken by the recipients were being recounted. Lucky me. I mean that.
As I sat and listened, I was overwhelmed. I listened to the account of an Army doctor who (while trying to treat wounded soldiers) single handedly repelled an onslaught of more than one hundred Japanese commandos while giving his own life. I listened to the account of an Army helicopter pilot who sacrificed his ship and his life in order to clear a path for advancing troops. I felt as if I had happened upon the spoken word version of Saving Private Ryan.
I consider myself a patriotic person, one who is willing to die for his country. However, I found myself weeping. I had no real idea of the sacrifices that have been put forth in order to maintain and preserve the freedom that we take for granted each time we wake up in the morning.
These guys were the real deal. I had to ask myself if I were the type of person who would be able to stand and fight in the same way that these brave men had. The answer was one of uncertainty. After all, I’m thirty-five years old and the only real contribution that I have made to this country has been paying taxes and exercising my right to vote. Pitiful.
This realization has come to me with a good deal of angst, as I now have family commitments that preclude any real involvement in the service of this nation. It kind of makes me feel like the patriotism that I have is unfounded, almost as if I have no real right to feel the amount of devotion that I possess. I mean, really, what have I done to deserve the privilege of living in this nation? Nothing. I was born here and that is enough. At least, that is what the laws of our land say.
I, however, do not feel that it is enough for any of us. We owe an extreme debt to those men and women who have given their lives to preserve our complacency. That then begs the question, “What can I do?” Therefore, I have decided to do my best to instill the knowledge of the acts of heroism committed for this country and for me in the minds of my children. I will educate them about these men and women. I will try and help them understand what it means to take pride in who they are and the rights that they have not earned. I will read to them the accounts of Medal of Honor winners and foster the idea that these are the heroes of our culture. I will tell them about VITO R BERTOLDO, who persevered forty-eight ours of constant battle to preserve their right to freedom. His actions are recounted as follows (The following excerpt was taken from http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/moh1.htm):
Place and date:
He fought with extreme gallantry while guarding 2 command posts against the assault of powerful infantry and armored forces which had overrun the battalion's main line of resistance. On the close approach of enemy soldiers, he left the protection of the building he defended and set up his gun in the street, there to remain for almost 12 hours driving back attacks while in full view of his adversaries and completely exposed to 88-mm., machinegun and small-arms fire. He moved back inside the command post, strapped his machinegun to a table and covered the main approach to the building by firing through a window, remaining steadfast even in the face of 88-mm. fire from tanks only 75 yards away. One shell blasted him across the room, but he returned to his weapon. When 2 enemy personnel carriers led by a tank moved toward his position, he calmly waited for the troops to dismount and then, with the tank firing directly at him, leaned out of the window and mowed down the entire group of more than 20 Germans. Some time later, removal of the command post to another building was ordered. M/Sgt. Bertoldo voluntarily remained behind, covering the withdrawal of his comrades and maintaining his stand all night. In the morning he carried his machinegun to an adjacent building used as the command post of another battalion and began a day-long defense of that position. He broke up a heavy attack, launched by a self-propelled 88-mm. gun covered by a tank and about 15 infantrymen. Soon afterward another 88-mm. weapon moved up to within a few feet of his position, and, placing the muzzle of its gun almost inside the building, fired into the room, knocking him down and seriously wounding others. An American bazooka team set the German weapon afire, and M/Sgt. Bertoldo went back to his machinegun dazed as he was and killed several of the hostile troops as they attempted to withdraw. It was decided to evacuate the command post under the cover of darkness, but before the plan could be put into operation the enemy began an intensive assault supported by fire from their tanks and heavy guns. Disregarding the devastating barrage, he remained at his post and hurled white phosphorous grenades into the advancing enemy troops until they broke and retreated. A tank less than 50 yards away fired at his stronghold, destroyed the machinegun and blew him across the room again but he once more returned to the bitter fight and, with a rifle, single-handedly covered the withdrawal of his fellow soldiers when the post was finally abandoned. With inspiring bravery and intrepidity M/Sgt. Bertoldo withstood the attack of vastly superior forces for more than 48 hours without rest or relief, time after time escaping death only by the slightest margin while killing at least 40 hostile soldiers and wounding many more during his grim battle against the enemy hordes.
There have been more than 3,400 Medal honor winners since the Civil War. They represent all that is great within our nation. Somehow, since the events of September the Eleventh, Two Thousand One, the relevance of those sacrifices needs to become the inspiration for this generation. It has become an inspiration to me. It is impossible for me to read these accounts without weeping. I am unable to ward off the magnitude of their sacrifice. I have 3400 new heroes, men who have given more than I will ever be able to give.