American Patriot: Brian Chontosh
For those of you who might not know, the man on the left is the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and he is proud to know the man on the right.
Meet Brian Chontosh.
Churchville-Chili Central School class of 1991. Proud graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Husband and about-to-be father. First lieutenant (now Captain) in the United States Marine Corps.
And a genuine hero.
The secretary of the Navy said so yesterday. At 29 Palms in California Brian Chontosh was presented with the Navy Cross, the second highest award for combat bravery the United States can bestow.
That's a big deal.
But you won't see it on the network news tonight, and all you read in Brian's hometown newspaper was two paragraphs of nothing. The odd fact about the American media in this war is that it's not covering the American military. The most plugged-in nation in the world is receiving virtually no true information about what its warriors are doing.
Oh, sure, there's a body count. We know how many Americans have fallen. And we see those same casket pictures day in and day out. And we're almost on a first-name basis with the jerks who abused the Iraqi prisoners. And we know all about improvised explosive devices and how we lost Fallujah and what Arab public-opinion polls say about us and how the world hates us.
We get a non-stop feed of gloom and doom. But we don't hear about the heroes. The incredibly brave GIs who honorably do their duty. The ones our grandparents would have carried on their shoulders down Fifth Avenue. The ones we completely ignore. Like Brian Chontosh.
On the march into Baghdad. Brian Chontosh was a platoon leader rolling up Highway 1 in a humvee. When all hell broke loose. Ambush city.
The young Marines were being cut to ribbons. Mortars, machine guns, rocket propelled grenades. And the kid out of Churchville was in charge. It was do or die and it was up to him. So he moved to the side of his column, looking for a way to lead his men to safety. As he tried to poke a hole through the Iraqi line his humvee came under direct enemy machine gun fire. It was fish in a barrel and the Marines were the fish.
Chontosh gave the order to attack. He told his driver to floor the humvee directly at the machine gun emplacement that was firing at them. And he had the guy on top with the 50 cal unload on them.
Within moments there were Iraqis = slumped across the machine gun and Chontosh was still advancing, ordering his driver now to take the humvee directly into the Iraqi trench that was attacking his Marines. Over into the battlement the humvee went and out the door Brian Chontosh bailed, carrying an M16 and a Beretta and 228 years of Marine Corps pride.
And he ran down the trench. With its mortars and riflemen, machineguns and grenadiers. And he killed them all. He fought with the M16 until it was out of ammo. Then he fought with the Beretta until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up a dead man's AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up another dead man's AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo.
At one point he even fired a discarded Iraqi RPG into an enemy cluster, sending attackers flying with its grenade explosion. When he was done Brian Chontosh had cleared 200 yards of entrenched Iraqis from his platoon's flank. He had killed more than 20 and wounded at least as many more. But that's probably not how he would tell it.
He would probably merely say that his Marines were in trouble, and he got them out of trouble. Hoo-ah, and drive on.
"By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, 1st Lt. Chontosh reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service."
That's what the citation says. And that's what few will hear. Stories like this don't make the evening news. Accounts of American valor are dismissed by the press as propaganda, yet accounts of American difficulties are heralded as objectivity. It makes you wonder if the role of the media is to inform or to depress - to report or to deride. To tell the truth, or to feed us lies.
But I guess it doesn't matter.
We're going to turn out all right.
As long as men like Brian Chontosh wear our uniform.