Jewish World Review July 30, 2010 / 19 Menachem-Av, 5770
Of Arms and the Man
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | When someone who has earned the Medal of Honor enters a room, a hush follows, like waters opening. The stillness in his wake is palpable. Men are filled with more than admiration. The emotion is a mix of awe, envy and wonder. "Would I be capable of that?" each asks himself.
Genteel ladies understand and hang back.
Generals stand aside. "I'd sell my immortal soul for that medal,"
Even politicians stop thinking of themselves. And the best of them are humbled.
Years ago, when the society of Medal of Honor recipients gathered here in
Freedom is much praised, but without courage, it is fleeting. As all know but too easily forget. Till the presence of someone wearing that blue band around his neck speaks that truth without a word being said. Or needing to be.
From the moment the country's highest honor is presented, the recipient is a marked man. He is different, and everyone knows it. He bears a great honor and an even greater burden. For all eyes are on him, and will be as long as he lives. And his story will be told long after he is gone. He no longer belongs to himself but to posterity. No wonder one recipient said it was harder to wear the medal than earn it.
Perhaps even more remarkable than his heroism was the grace with which
But you knew that behind the friendly, unassuming manner was a story as distinctive, and as essential to whatever remains of the West's civilization, as when the poet first sang of arms and the man.
There are fewer than a hundred Medal of Honor recipients still living, and now there is one less:
The formal words of the official citation, marching across the printed page as if in full review, tell of what he did one endless day in
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. S/Sgt. Bacon distinguished himself while serving as a squad leader with the
"When the 3d Platoon moved to S/Sgt. Bacon's location, its leader was also wounded. Without hesitation S/Sgt. Bacon took charge of the additional platoon and continued the fight. In the ensuing action he personally killed 4 more enemy soldiers and silenced an antitank weapon. Under his leadership and example, the members of both platoons accepted his authority without question. Continuing to ignore the intense hostile fire, he climbed up on the exposed deck of a tank and directed fire into the enemy position while several wounded men were evacuated.
"As a result of S/Sgt. Bacon's extraordinary efforts, his company was able to move forward, eliminate the enemy positions, and rescue the men trapped to the front. S/Sgt. Bacon's bravery at the risk of his life was in the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the
"I got my boot heel shot off, I got holes in my canteens, I got my rifle grip shot up. I got shrapnel holes in my camouflage covers, and bullets in my pot. A bullet creased the edge of it, tore the lining off."
Some men are tested by one single, exhilarating day lived at high pitch, others over the course of a lifetime of day-in, day-out service to others.
In the end, what needs to be said, and isn't often enough, is simply:
Thank you for your service.
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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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