Marine courage

Rick Mowles, DC, DICAK, DABCO
Vietnam 68-70
1st. Battalion, 9th Marines

  In our society we often hear the words, "courage" and less often "valor" applied to events. For example, we hear that somebody died of cancer and showed such courage in the course of the disease, or we hear about a devastating family situation where an event was handled with such courage. 

  For those who have served in the Armed Forces, these words take on a different meaning and perspective. We see these terms assigned to acts that go beyond description of the limits of human performance. A lot of these acts are viewed as "superhuman" or beyond the comprehension of the average person.

We will look at these terms, "courage" and "valor" in more detail. Merriam’s Dictionary defines courage as "the ability of confront fear, pain, risk/danger, uncertainty, or intimidation." Valor is defined as "boldness or determination in facing great danger, especially in battle." The military further breaks down these terms as they apply on the battlefield to different medals as to the act of courage or valor. Some of these medals are different from each branch of the Armed Forces. For example, the Navy Cross is the second highest award for battlefield courage or valor given to those who served in the Navy or Marine Corps. This same medal in the Army is the Distinguished Service Cross.

  The Nation’s highest award for courage and valor is the Congressional Medal of Honor. As defined, " the highest decoration for valor awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed on a member of the United States Armed Forces who distinguishes him or herself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States."1 The Medal of Honor is often presented to the recipient or in the case of posthumous awards, the next of kin, by the President of the United States in the name of Congress. Unfortunately, most of the Medal of Honor awards are given posthumously. 

  There have been 3446 Medal of Honor recipients awarded since 1861. There are currently 93 living recipients and 18 double recipients. In the early days, the standards for being awarded the Medal of Honor were less stringent. Most of the 18 Double recipients were from 1861 until World War I. Since World War II the standards for being awarded the Medal of Honor have been tightened and more carefully scrutinized.

  Looking at this amazing group of individuals, certain things are common with them all. None feel they deserved such an honor and they all state, "the real heroes are those who never came back from war!" They all say that they were just in the right place at the right time to make a difference. These men are ordinary people. These are not the Rambos or Chuck Norris types as depicted in motion pictures. They are ordinary people who, when put into a situation where their unit or group was in danger from enemy combatants, freely risked their lives. They didn’t think of themselves or the danger, but did extraordinary things under the most extreme or impossible circumstances.

When reading their citations and histories it is amazing some of the stories behind these heroes.  

Audie Murphy and Rodger Young were all turned down for military service due to their size.
They were both very small men and the military didn’t feel they could meet the physical requirements for service.   

Tibor Rubin was a Hungarian jew who was freed as a boy from a Nazi concentration camp during World War II by US forces. His parents were murdered in the gas chambers. He migrated to the United States and tried to join the Army but was turned down because he didn’t speak english very well. After improving his english he finally was accepted into the Army. He volunteered for Korea. On a ridge in Korea he held off a large number of North Korean soldiers for twenty four hours while his unit was able to strategically maneuver to another ridge. All he had was an M1 Carbine and lots of grenades. When rejoined to his unit, he was later wounded and captured as a POW. He was imprisoned in a North Korean prison camp. While there, he stole food to feed the other prisoners who were starving. Later it was said that he saved 40 of his fellow soldiers from starvation.

  Rodger Young was partially deaf and couldn’t see very well. He was one of the smallest soldiers ever to enlist. He joined the reserves and was promoted to sergeant. His reserve unit was activated and sent to the South Pacific in World War II. His hearing was getting progressively worse as well as his eyesight. He asked his company commander if he could be demoted to private as he didn’t feel competent to lead his platoon due to his progressive health problems. His company commander accused him of being a coward and trying to get sent back home, but demoted him to private.   

  Several weeks later on New Caledonia, his unit was pinned down by three Japanese pill boxes. There was  murderous machine gun crossfire that kept his unit from moving. Young started crawling forward towards the pill boxes. His company commander grabbed him by the leg and asked, "What are you doing?" Young turned and looked at the commander and replied, "I can’t hear you." He proceeded forward and knocked out all three pill boxes being mortally wounded in the process.

These examples are taken from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. As mentioned before, they represents feats of courage and valor that are beyond description. There are a lot of fallen soldiers and marines that performed extraordinary acts of courage and valor, who weren’t awarded any medals for those actions. There are soldiers and marines living today as the result of those acts of heroism.

  So when the terms, “courage” and “valor” are mentioned, it takes on an entirely different perspective through the eyes of a soldier or marine. As mentioned previously, most people who haven’t been in the Armed Forces will probably never see such acts in their lifetime.

"Valor is stability, not legs and arms, but of courage and the soul."
Michelde Montaigne

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Rick Mowles

Courage Beyond Compare

Rick Mowles
Rick Mowles
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