22 April 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things: V is for Valor

I grew up in Memphis riding and eventually driving on a portion of Tennessee State Route 204  known as Singleton Parkway.  It runs from Macon Road north to Hwy 385 near Millington.  It is named in honor of Sgt.Walter Keith Singleton, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for combat action in the Gio Linh District, Quang Tri Province of Vietnam, during which he was killed on 24 March 1967.  Singleton risked his life to save wounded comrades pinned down by an enemy position in a hedgerow.  Singleton seized a machine gun and single-handedly assaulted the enemy nest, killing 8 and clearing the position, being mortally wounded in the process. 

Tony K. Burris earned the Medal of Honor for his actions on “Heartbreak Ridge” during the Korean War.  Despite being wounded several times, he led multiple assaults on Hill 605, deliberately exposing his position to draw enemy fire and direct return fire.  He died personally leading a charge, throwing his last grenade and rallying his unit to capture the position.  One of 28 full-blooded Native Americans to receive the Medal of Honor.

Benjamin Kaufman, one of 22 Jewish-American Medal of Honor Recipients, received the award for action in the Argonne Forest, France on 4 October 1918 during World War I.  Despite being temporarily blinded by a gas shell and forced to evacuate to a field hospital, Kaufman borrowed a uniform and returned to the fighting,  single-handedly capturing an enemy machine gun nest with one arm and an empty pistol.

But you don’t have to be a soldier to display valor.

One of the most iconic images of the 20th century is a lone man, armed only with a couple of shopping bags, standing in front of a line of Chinese T59 tanks in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.  Known only as “Tank Man,” Tank Man his identity has never been conclusively proven, nor is his ultimate fate known.  Some observers report that he was hustled away by the Chinese government’s euphemistically named “Public Security Bureau.”  Others claim the two figures who led him away were merely part of the protest crowd.  Whoever he was, Chinese government had, according to eyewitnesses, ordered tanks to simply plow over such protestors before, having a very utilitarian view of its citizens, so it was a pretty risky move.   Perhaps it was the open forum and tank commander’s knowledge of the presence of many international observers and cameras that spared his life.  Perhaps it was the bravery of the tank commander alone.  His fate is not known, either, but worldwide recognition of the Chinese crackdown could not have pleased the Chinese high command.

Reese is two years old.  At an age when a typical child’s greatest challenges are potty training and learning to operate door knobs, Reese is receiving chemotherapy for a brain tumor, discovered in May 2013.  Reese is the April Patient of the Month at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.  Hang in there, Reese.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

No a-z days off for you it looks like!