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Here Rests in Honored Glory

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Here Rests In Honored Glory

Life Stories Of Our Country’s Medal Of Honor Recipients
  • by Andrew J. DeKever
    • With Preface by Michael J. Durant, Chief Warrant Officer 4 (ret.), U.S. Army
      • Author of In The Company of Heroes and The Night StalkersMerriam Press Military History Series
    • Second Edition 2012
    • 386 6×9-inch pages
    • 27 photos
    • 8 illustrations
What is the definition of a “hero” in contemporary American society? What qualifies as a “heroic” act? What is the proper way to honor those individuals on whom we bestow the title of “hero”? With U.S. military personnel at war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, these questions take on greater relevance today than they did in the years that immediately preceded the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Although acts of valor take place daily on the battlefields of the Global War on Terrorism, the United States is struggling to find the right answers to these questions about heroism in the 21st century.
 
In Here Rests in Honored Glory, Andrew DeKever, a veteran of the Iraq War, tackles these very issues. Chronicling the lives of ten recipients of the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for combat heroism, DeKever breaks ranks from similar books by focusing more on describing the men behind the uniform rather than on the few minutes of valor that immortalized them in the pages of American military history. As a result, Here Rests in Honored Glory reminds its readers that true heroes are ordinary men and women who, under the most horrific of circumstances, are able to dig deep and find the raw courage necessary to be brave “above and beyond the call of duty” towards protecting other people and serving a cause greater than themselves.
 
By telling the ordinary lives of these extraordinary heroes, Here Rests in Honored Glory serves as a powerful reminder that all people, no matter what their background, possess the same potential for courage and self-sacrifice—attributes that should be devoted towards improving the nation these men risked and sacrificed their lives to protect.

Reviews

I purchased the first edition of this book years ago. In particular, to read about the life story of Master Sergeant Gordon. Prior to this book, very little information was available about his personal life. During a research paper for school, I had written to his hometown library, where I read about his personal and Army life. However, Mr. DeKever captured details never available from news articles or a library. The author did an excellent job highlighting this hero's personal life, which humanized the man of the Medal of Honor citation that I read. Thank you, Mr. DeKever. I highly recommend this book.

—David
 
From the Prologue
 
What is the definition of a “hero” in contemporary American society? What qualifies as a “heroic” act? What is the proper way to honor those individuals on whom we bestow the title of “hero”? With U.S. military personnel at war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, these questions take on greater relevance today than they did in the years that immediately preceded the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Although acts of valor take place daily on the battlefields of the Global War on Terrorism, the United States is struggling to find the right answers to these questions about heroism in the 21st century.
 
While deployed to Kuwait in the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, my fellow soldiers and I followed with rapt fascination as the news media carried stories about Private Jessica Lynch, who was rescued by U.S. Special Forces personnel following the ambush of her convoy from the 507th Maintenance Company in Nasiriyah, Iraq. What was perhaps more compelling than her liberation was the accounts we were hearing about her actions just prior to her capture: stories about the West Virginia native fearlessly engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat with her bayonet after she had expended her last round of ammunition. It was not until some time later that all America learned that Lynch had never fired a shot in that engagement, her injuries coming as the result of her Humvee colliding with another vehicle during the course of the firefight. The military, desperate to win public support for an unpopular war, embellished her actions into something that one would find in a Medal of Honor citation. In her words, the Pentagon,
… wanted a war hero so badly that they portrayed me as one. They didn’t get their facts straight before talking about what happened, and neither did the media. They said I went down guns blazing, like Rambo—but I never fired a shot because my rifle had jammed.
The Defense Department later corrected the story, but Lynch still pays the price for this deception, as she continues to receive hate mail from people who accuse her of not having done anything heroic in Iraq.
 
When former NFL star Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, with the U.S. Army Rangers, the military was quick to share details of his final moments, dying so bravely in the face of enemy fire that he was soon honored posthumously with the Silver Star, America’s third-highest award for combat valor. The truth behind Tillman’s death came out shortly later, however, revealing that he was killed as the result of “friendly fire.” As of this writing, allegations continue to circulate that Tillman’s chain-of-command may have deliberately tried to hide the truth behind the ambush that cost him his life because of the potential fall-out his death would have on public support for the War on Terror.
 
The examples of Lynch and Tillman suggest that the U.S. government will, if necessary, distort the portrayal of events on the battlefield, creating “heroes” if they feel it is necessary to maintain sagging public support for an unpopular war with no thought as to the consequences this will entail for the military personnel or family members affected by such decisions. This behavior, however, is not limited to the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, as demonstrated by the events that followed the publication of Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph of the raising of the American flag over Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi in 1945. As depicted in Clint Eastwood’s powerful, thought-provoking movie adaptation of James Bradley’s Flags of Our Fathers, the U.S. government marketed the surviving flag raisers as heroes to the American public in order to encourage people to buy war bonds in the final months of World War II. Such actions took their toll on these men, as they had to contend not only with the stress of being treated as heroes when they did not see themselves as such, but also with the despair that later came when society and the government discarded them after the war, their “heroic” stature having outlived its usefulness.
 
America’s challenges in recognizing and honoring true heroism, though, are not limited to mistakes, embellishment, and deception on the part of the U.S. government. Arguably, the American people are struggling even more with properly identifying, remembering, and celebrating their heroes. Perhaps part of America’s problem is that even though we claim to be the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” we have lost perspective of who truly is or is not a “hero.” The definition of “hero” in American society has become so watered down that we predominately tend to associate athletes, entertainment stars, or other celebrities with the word. It was not until the events of September 11, 2001, that we began to connect the word “hero” again with people who risk their lives in order to protect others, such as in the case of New York City fire, rescue, and police personnel who charged into the World Trade Center while everyone else raced out. Bill Bidwill, the vice president of the Arizona Cardinals, eloquently captured this idea when Pat Tillman was killed: “In sports we have a tendency to overuse terms like ‘courage’ and ‘bravery’ and ‘heroes,’ and then someone like Pat Tillman comes along and reminds us what those terms really mean.” 
 
Additionally, part of the problem is that the American public is disillusioned with the actions surrounding one of its most numerous groups of heroes, the men and women of the U.S. armed forces. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, large segments of American society have become turned off by the fact that the aims pursued by military service necessarily involve bloodshed and destruction sometimes. As a result, even though Americans claim they “support our troops,” they “also believe that war, being hell, can easily touch them with an evil no cause for engagement can wash away.” Consequently, Americans seem more comfortable with viewing military personnel as victims rather than as warriors or heroes, in the process ignoring the battlefield valor demonstrated by our fighting forces. An example of this can be seen in Pat Tillman and Marine Corporal Jason Dunham, who both died on April 22, 2004. “Tillman has become a metaphor for the current conflict—a victim of fratricide, disillusionment, cover-up and possibly conspiracy.” As a result, his story continues to receive widespread media attention. In contrast, Dunham, who posthumously earned the Medal of Honor in Iraq for smothering an enemy grenade in order to save the lives of his fellow Marines, has been forgotten by the nation he went to war to protect. When President Bush presented Dunham’s Medal of Honor to his family in 2006, the New York Times buried his story on the third page of section B. The posthumous Medal of Honor presentation for Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy on October 22, 2007, also received scant coverage in the mainstream news media. In contrast, the Times featured Abu Ghraib for thirty-two consecutive days on its front page in 2004. Additionally, although the media provided extensive coverage of Captain Scott O’Grady and Private Jessica Lynch following their rescue from behind enemy lines in Bosnia and Iraq, respectively, almost no public attention or recognition was given to the brave warriors who risked their lives to save them.
 
This trend is tragic because many of the objectives sought by U.S. military campaigns—preventing repeats of 9/11, stopping genocide in the Balkans, reversing international aggression, and liberating oppressed peoples from butchers like Saddam Hussein, among others—ultimately serve to protect American lives and to make the world a more peaceful place. Not wanting to remember veterans because of war’s brutality is also unfair to Americans who wear our nation’s uniform because soldiers hate war more than anyone else does, given that they are the people who must make the greatest sacrifices during military conflicts.
 
As reflected by these trends, Americans have lost what it properly means to remember and honor our nation’s defenders. Although we have two Federal holidays to commemorate our military service members, Memorial Day and Veterans Day have degenerated into nothing more than an excuse for a long weekend, a barbecue, or a department store sale for countless Americans. Reporters for the print and broadcast news media will air the name and picture of every American military fatality in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as images of the maimed and wounded and stories about veterans struggling with divorce, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and other challenges. These same journalists do not consider newsworthy, though, stories about the thousands of soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen who have been decorated for combat heroism in the Global War on Terrorism.
 
Finally, the lives and stories of America’s truest heroes, the recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, have far less recognition among the American public than the name of the winner on American Idol or that of a person’s favorite NASCAR driver. A sad testimony of this came during the Memorial Day weekend of 2007 when Frances S. Currey, a recipient from World War II, was pulled over for speeding near Petersburg, Virginia. Treated disrespectfully by the police officer, Currey asked him if he saw the car’s distinctive Medal of Honor license plate and if he knew what it meant. To this, the officer replied, “Doesn’t mean a thing.”  Tragically, this is not an isolated incident, as will be demonstrated in the next chapter by similar anecdotes from recent years.

* * *
 
Here Rests in Honored Glory is my effort to reverse this trend. It is a collection of biographies of ten recipients of the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for combat heroism, whose graves I have visited in my travels. This book is about the recipients themselves, serving as my love letter to their valor and to the bravery of the men and women of the United States armed forces. I want to tell their stories so that they are preserved for posterity and not forgotten by the nation they risked their lives to protect. In a word, Here Rests in Honored Glory is about remembrance.
 
This act of remembrance is in no way a celebration of war, nor is it an attempt to romanticize or glorify something that is utterly profane. To the contrary, it serves a number of peaceful and productive intentions.
 
To begin with, remembrance reminds us of the attributes displayed through the actions of Medal of Honor holders and of American service members in general who have fought for our country: courage, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and duty, among others. These are noble ideals, but without actions to support them, these ideals are not worth the breath with which they are spoken. By remembering the practice of such virtues on the warfront, we encourage them to be displayed on a larger scale in day-to-day life on the homefront.
 
Secondly, remembrance helps us to never forget the dear price that has been paid to establish and protect our freedoms that can easily be taken for granted. The white headstones that extend into the horizon at Normandy, Arlington, Florence, and other military cemeteries testify to the enormous burden that past generations have borne in the hope of creating a better world for their children and grandchildren. Remembrance thus compels each of us to direct our daily labors towards the realization of a better America so that the sacrifices of our forbearers were not made in vain.
 
Finally, remembrance of war offers the best hope for promoting peace. The costs of war can be measured not only in dollars and cents, but also in the effect on its young combatants: the death of their innocence, the slaughter of their dreams, and the disfiguring of their beauty. These latter costs, though less tangible, are far more dear and irreplaceable. Remembrance of the full cost of war can thus help compel governments to think twice before rushing their populations into armed conflict. With this in mind, though, we must never forget that although war is evil, it is sometimes the lesser of two evils, sadly necessary to protect our nation and to liberate oppressed peoples.
 
The men and women of our armed forces—past and present—are heroes in the finest sense of the word. They chose the military profession not out of a desire to kill, but to serve this nation, to protect its citizens from harm, and to make the world a more humane place. To this end, they are prepared to endure danger, long separations from loved ones, lousy pay, uprooting their families every few years, the brunt of hostility and criticism from a war’s detractors, and a host of other hardships. Above all else, they are willing to offer up their lives in the service of the country they swore to protect, even when their countrymen march in the streets to protest against them and the cause for which they fight. In exchange for giving so much, all they ask is that their sacrifices be honored and remembered.
 
Recipients of the Medal of Honor represent the highest example of such selflessness. They come from all walks of life: every different race, religion, socio-economic class, and ethnicity that makes up the beautiful melting pot that is America. Their homes can be found in all corners of our nation: from Waddington, New York, to Milford, Indiana, to San Diego, California, with many born overseas or in U.S. territories. They range in stature from Douglas MacArthur, Theodore Roosevelt, and other larger-than-life figures to eighteen-year-old boys such as Daniel D. Bruce. What unifies such extreme contrasts is a willingness to sacrifice their lives in order to accomplish the mission and to protect their buddies around them. For this reason, although several books have been written about the Medal of Honor and its recipients, their stories cannot be told enough. To the telling of their stories and those of our military personnel, I have dedicated my life.
 
All of us have something we can learn from the extraordinary example of these ordinary heroes. I hope you feel the same way after reading about their lives in the pages before you.
 
—Andrew J. DeKever, West Point, New York, 15 December 2007
 
From the Preface by Michael J. Durant Chief Warrant Officer 4, U.S. Army (Ret.): "Gary Gordon's selfless actions and personal sacrifice, the sacrifice of each of the heroes chronicled in this work, and the sacrifices of countless others throughout our nation's history, can never be repaid, only honored. In researching each of these heroes and capturing the details of each of their lives, Andrew has done just that. I now understand not just what Gary Gordon did, but who he was. I can appreciate what drove him to serve in the Special Forces units he volunteered for and what drove him without hesitation to sacrifice his life for my crew. Through this work, Andrew has honored Gary and all of these men, their families, and their comrades. By helping us all understand the people behind these incredible stories, he's done this nation a great service."
 
Contents
  • Preface by Michael Durant
  • Prologue
  • Chapter 1: History of the Medal of Honor
  • Chapter 2: The Civil War
    • Second Lieutenant Robert Buffum
    • Brevet Major John T. Rutherford
  • Chapter 3: The Indian Wars
    • Private Enoch R. Weiss
  • Chapter 4: The Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection
    • Artificer Joseph Nolan
  • Chapter 5: World War I
    • Private First Class Parker F. Dunn
  • Chapter 6: World War II
    • Private First Class John D. Magrath
    • Second Lieutenant Harry J. Michael
  • Chapter 7: The Korean War
    • Staff Sergeant William G. Windrich
  • Chapter 8: The Vietnam War
    • Private First Class Daniel D. Bruce
  • Chapter 9: Somalia Epilogue Acknowledgments
    • Master Sergeant Gary I. Gordon
  • Medal of Honor Citations
  • Bibliography
  • About the Author

About the Author: Andrew J. DeKever is a native of Mishawaka, Indiana, who was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army through the University of Notre Dame Army ROTC program in 1995. His military career has included a tour of duty in South Korea and service in Iraq and Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is married to the former Mary Goldthrite of Carthage, New York. Here Rests in Honored Glory is his first book.

Publisher’s Note: Ray Merriam, the owner of the Merriam Press, publisher of this book, was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, the hometown of John Magrath, whose story is chronicled in this book. Although Ray lived in South Norwalk for most of the 16 years he spent there, he also spent about three years in East Norwalk, where Magrath lived. Ray was born after World War II, in the early 1950s, so he never met John Magrath. He was, however, well aware of Magrath and his hero status in Norwalk. Magrath Elementary School in West Norwalk was named in his memory, as is Magrath Park. The Shea-Magrath Sports Complex at Norwalk High School in Connecticut is named for him. In June 1995, Fort Drum, New York, renamed its Soldiers Sports Complex as the John D. Magrath Gymnasium. A plaque and portrait at Magrath Gym honor his memory.

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