National Medal of Honor Day — Devotion: The Real Story
“Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them.” —Thomas Jefferson (1775)
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”
This week, we celebrate National Medal of Honor Day, an opportunity to recognize the recipients of our nation’s highest military award and to honor their extraordinary service and sacrifice on behalf of their brothers in arms, in keeping with their oaths “to support and defend” our Constitution and the American Liberty it enshrines.
It marks the anniversary observance of the First Medals awarded on March 25, 1863, for actions by Andrews’ Raiders on April 12, 1862. Their mission was immortalized in print and film as “The Great Locomotive Chase.” Those actions occurred just south of Chattanooga, the Birthplace of the Medal of Honor and home of the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center.
Since those first medals were awarded, American presidents and military commanders have, in the name of Congress, presented 3,535 Medals to 3,516 recipients, a very elite few among the almost 40 million American veterans who have served our nation since 1861. Amazingly, there have been 19 double recipients, and today, in a nation of some 330 million people, there are just 65 living recipients.
In theaters recently, and now streaming, you may have seen the fact-based film “Devotion,” the true story of Mississippi native Jesse Leroy Brown, the first black American to make it through the Navy’s flight training program and pin on Wings of Gold as a Naval Aviator. He was also the first black American naval officer killed in the Korean War. He was to Naval Aviation what Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee was to the Army Air Force a decade earlier.
My family and I anticipated this film’s release because Brown flew the Vought F4U-4 Corsair in Korea, a plane made famous in World War II by Marine Ace Pappy Boyington and his “Black Sheep” squadron — and the fighter flown by both my father and uncle.
Moreover, “Devotion” is the story of the friendship between Brown and his devoted wingman, Medal of Honor recipient Tom Hudner.
I am reluctant to spoil the film’s plot for those who have not seen it, but I am convinced the more any American Patriot knows about it, the more he will want to see it.
The short version: On 4 December 1950, 24-year-old Jesse Brown was flying in a VF-32 six ship of Corsairs providing air cover for ground forces near the Chosin Reservoir. About 17 miles deep over brutal enemy territory near Somong-ni, his Corsair was hit by enemy fire. Losing fuel pressure and unable to control his plane, Brown dropped his external fuel tanks and launched his rockets in preparation for a crash landing in a snow-covered mountain clearing. It was near dark when he skidded in with Hudner flying above. Hudner could see his friend trapped in his plane, which was on fire. Hudner refused orders to leave his wingman and did the unthinkable — he intentionally crash-landed his Corsair near Brown’s plane. Surviving his crash, he ran to Brown’s aid but was unable to extricate him.
Brown died with his wingman next to him. His last words to Hudner were, “Tell Daisy I love her.” In tears, Tom delivered that message to Jesse’s beloved wife.
For his service, Jesse Brown posthumously received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, and the Air Medal. For his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty,” Tom Hudner received the Medal of Honor.
I encourage you to read Tom Hudner’s MoH citation.
Please join us in honoring these extraordinary warriors so that their service and sacrifice will never be forgotten.
At the dawn of our nation, Thomas Jefferson declared: “Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them.”
As for those who today enjoy these freedoms with no acknowledgement or respect for those who paid the ultimate price for them, I invoke the words of Samuel Adams: “Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say, ‘What should be the reward of such sacrifices?’ … If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands, which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”
Fellow Patriots, if you ever find yourself short of inspiration, I invite you to read the profiles of other Medal of Honor recipients, including Sgt. Gary Beikirch (Army), T/Sgt. Charles Coolidge (Army), Lt. Col. Chuck Hagemeister (Army), Col. Wesley Fox (Marine), and Col. Leo Thorsness (Air Force).
On the subject of inspiration, Col. Thorsness always mentioned in his public remarks a fellow POW, Navy pilot Mike Christian. Mike was the subject of a column, “Our Flag — What Do You See?,” and a children’s book we published, I’m Your Flag So Please Treat Me Right!
“Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
I have the privilege of serving on the Advisory Board for the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center in Chattanooga. Our educational mission is to instill within the next generation of Americans the six character-trait pillars of the Medal of Honor — traits that are common to all recipients: Courage, Sacrifice, Patriotism, Citizenship, Integrity, and Commitment.
Notably, Chattanooga was also the field of service for the only woman who holds a Medal of Honor, Dr. Mary Walker. Other well-known recipients from our area include World War I’s Alvin York, whose life story was immortalized in the film “Sergeant York.” It was also home to my neighbor for the last 20 years of his life, World War II’s Desmond Doss, whose heroic actions were featured in the recent movie “Hacksaw Ridge.”
For more information on supporting the National Heritage Center, please contact the Patriot Foundation Trust administrator or visit the Heritage Center website.
(As part of our Military Mission of Service, The Patriot Post and Patriot Foundation Trust are proud sponsors of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, Folds of Honor, Honoring the Sacrifice, Warrior Freedom Service Dogs, Officer Christian Fellowship, the Air University Foundation, the Naval War College Foundation, and the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation.)
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776
Join us in prayer for our nation’s Military Patriots standing in harm’s way, for our First Responders, and for their families. Please lift up your Patriot team and our mission to support and defend our Republic’s Founding Principle of Liberty, in order to ignite the fires of freedom in the hearts and minds of our countrymen. Thank you for supporting our nation’s premier online journal of Liberty.
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