Friday, May 25, 2007

Heroes You Haven't Heard About

Jeff Emanuel (posted at both at NRO and The American Spectator) relates the stories of 4 brave men, from each branch of the service, that gave their lives for the cause of freedom.

Michael Monsoor, United States Navy, was a SEAL team member that sacrificed his life jumping on a grenade to save three other individuals on his team and eight Iraqi soldiers during the battles for Ramadi in Iraq. The amazing part of this act was that Monsoor was the only man in the room that was in a position to vacate it - meaning he could have saved himself.

"According to the Associated Press, "One SEAL lieutenant...watched Monsoor shield him and others from exploding hot metal...when the grenade blew up their sniper position. 'Mikey had the best chance of avoiding harm altogether,' said the officer. 'But he never took his eye off the grenade.""

Monsoor, already a Bronze Star recipient at the time of his death, earned a Silover Star for this act, and has his name has been submitted for the Medal of Honor.

Jason Dunham, United States Marine Corps, saved the lives of his fellow Marine teammates during a vehicle search after a Marine convoy was ambushed. Dunham and an insurgent were engaged in a hand to hand struggle when the insurgent dropped a grenade. Like Monsoor, Dunham jumped onto the grenade and also used his helmet to contain the blast, saving several other Marines from injury. He succumbed to the wounds he suffered a week later, and has been awarded the Medal of Honor for his selfless act of bravery in a White House ceremony on Jan. 11 of this year.

Ross McGinnis, United States Army joined the US Army at the age of seventeen (so did this blogger, BTW) and joined an infantry company based in Germany, which in turn deployed to Iraq last year. McGinnis was such an outstanding soldier and distinguished himself so much in his service in Iraq that an exemption was requested, and granted, to promote him to the grade Specialist (E-4) despite not having the requisite time of service. Like the two brave souls above, McGinnis also lost his life saving others from a grenade. McGinnis was manning a .50 caliber MG from a Humvee when a grenade thrown from an rooftop entered the vehicle hatch. Like Monsoor, he could have saved himself, but chose to sacrifice himself to save others.

"According to platoon sergeant Cedric Thomas, who was commanding the vehicle, "McGinnis yelled 'Grenade...It's in the truck!'...I looked out of the corner of my eye as I was crouching down and I saw him pin it down."He had time to jump out of the truck. He chose not to."

McGinnis has been awarded the Silver Star, and has also been submitted for the Medal of Honor. He was 19 years of age at the time of his death.

Jason Cunningham, United States Air Force, had an unusual career path; he spent four years in the US Navy before joining the USAF with the goal of joining the elite Air Force Pararescue team. This is a team of medics (there are less than 1000 such in the entire USAF) that specialize in deploying by any means necessary to provide medical aid to downed pilots or special operations personnel. Cunningham not only earned a position with this group, he was an innovator that helped develop the program that allowed Pararescue teams to carry whole blood in forward battle zones, saving untold Americna lives as a result. Cunningham was serving in Afghanistan at Bagram AFB during Operation Anaconda when he was inserted to a hilltop where a number of Navy SEALS, USAF personnel and Army Rangers had been wounded.

Then the story gets really amazing. The bravery and heroism displayed by Cunningham is simply stunning.

"Making the decision to move his patients, Cunningham crossed the line of fire seven separate times while successfully transporting them to higher ground -- then was forced to move them twice more to avoid the enemy fire raining down on their static, vulnerable casualty collection points. Finally, just after midnight, after so much success defying enemy fire to move and treat his patients, Cunningham's luck ran out, and he was shot in the abdomen just below his protective vest. According to the Air Force Times, "Cunningham must have known he was in serious trouble. But despite his worsening condition, he continued to treat patients and advise others on how to care for the critically wounded. One of the two blood packs he had brought [and which he was directly responsible for PJs being able to carry] saved a badly wounded Ranger. The medics gave the other packet to Cunningham himself, whose life was slowly flowing out in a red stream onto the white snow."Nearly twenty hours after suffering serious internal injuries, and not long before the area became cold enough for rescue helicopters to arrive and evacuate the wounded fighters, Cunningham succumbed to his wounds. He had treated patients to the end, and was credited afterward with having almost single-handedly made sure that only seven men died rather than seventeen -- though such dedication and seriousness of purpose ended up costing him his own life. Every wounded man he treated survived the encounter, and for his extraordinary heroism and gallant action in living the Pararescue motto ("That Others May Live"), he was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, the second-highest award that the USAF offers. According to the citation, "As a result of [Cunningham's] extraordinary heroism, his team returned 10 seriously wounded personnel to life-saving medical care."

The fact that the stories of all of these men, and others like them, such as CMH award winner Paul Smith, are not featured prominently in the nations' media outlets is more than a tragedy, it's almost a crime. The fact that there are no Audy Murphys or Alvin Yorks in this war, men whose bravery and sacrifice are known to all Americans, is pathetic beyond measure. The fact that the media choose to ignore them entirely or bury them in the back pages due to political considerations is a travesty.

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