Sunday, May 21, 2017

Medal of Honor

J and L Research and Exploration
His citation reads, in part, "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Major Bruce P. Crandall distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism as a Flight Commander in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)." 

The full text of citation tells the dispassionate details of a commander who completed 22 flights under relentless enemy fire to evacuate 70  wounded soldiers.

There is a distinction between the celebrations of Veterans Day and Memorial Day in this country. Veterans Day honors all military veterans and celebrates their service. Veterans day coincides with Armistice Day as we noted in a previous blog post (see Armistice Day by J and L). Memorial Day honors those who died while in military service. Those who payed the ultimate price. Because of men like Major Crandall, (later promoted to Colonel) we have fewer men and women to honor on Memorial Day -- and for that fact, we, their families and fellow countrymen, are eternally grateful.

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day after the Civil War when soldiers, Union and Confederate (albeit on different days), decorated the graves of their fallen comrades. During this same era, the Medal of Honor was established by an act of law by President Abraham Lincoln, calling for the awarding, in the name of Congress, of  a US Army Medal of Honor and US Navy Medal of Valor to soldiers who "most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action." Since its inception, the Medal has been conferred upon more than 3,400 men and one woman (Mary Edwards Walker), including the youngest recipient, Willie Johnston, who was 11 when he earned this distinction, and one president (Theodore Roosevelt for his service with the Rough Riders).

Though Memorial is just around the corner and we all owe a great deal to those brave men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice we can not help to mention those who have received the highest medal in the land.

As we spoke with Colonel Crandall,  what struck us was his great sense of humor and his humility. This man who saved dozens of fellow soldiers while taking an unbelievable amount of enemy fire thought little of it.

"It was my job," was all he stated simply. "Anyone in my position would have done the same."

We're not sure of that but we're glad, just as those families who received their loved ones back after the battle were glad that men like Colonel Crandall was there looking out for them.

These recipients - we made the mistake of saying they had won the MOH and were instantly corrected by Colonel Crandall who stated that he received it, not won it.

"No one in their right mind goes into battle to win a medal. We go into battle to protect our brothers and sisters in arms - I received this medal and cherish it in the memory of those who never made it home. It's not mine - I'm just the caretaker."

With the day over, we returned home in almost silence with thoughts of this man who shared a horrific time in his life with them and were humbled to have met such a hero. Of course, they wouldn't tell Colonel Crandall that - he would have laughed and said he wasn't a hero.

This we could argue.

On that day in November 1965, a young man flew into harm's way without a thought about his own safety. It was such a privotal and brutal battle, that his story was later made into a film starring Mel Gibson, entitled 'We Were Soldiers.'

The battle was so desperate a film was made

So, in this latest blog J and L swept up both Memorial Day and Veteran's Day - that's okay, In out pages all these self-sacrificing individuals don't get the attention they deserve by keeping the United States free.

Each branch has its own medal