Tag Archives: Medal of Honor

Thinking practically about the gospel with an illustration from a war movie

The city of Mogadishu, in Somalia, Africa
The city of Mogadishu, in Somalia, Africa

I decided to re-post one of my favorite posts for Memorial Day.

First, let’s get an overview that helps us understand the context and goals of the mission we are going to discuss.

The scene is set in Somalia, Africa, in 1992. There a civil war between two warlords: Ali Mahdi and Mohammed Farah Aidid. The war has destroyed agricultural operations, and the people are starving. The United Nations are trying to help, but Aidid hijacks the food from UN aircraft so that he can use the food to gain control of the people. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis are dying of starvation. The UN requests American military forces to secure the air-dropped supplies so they can be distributed to the starving people.

In December 1992, President George H.W. Bush answers the call, sending 25,000 troops to Somalia to protect the food from the Somali warlords. However, in 1993, Bill Clinton is elected. He orders that the number of U.S. troops be reduced to 12,000. Following an attack by Aidid on Pakistani peace-keepers, the U.N. issues a resolution to capture those responsible. The U.S. armed forces have the arms and training to battle evil, so they get the call to capture Aidid and his lieutenants.

In late August 1993, Task Force Ranger is deployed to Mogadishu to capture Aidid and his lieutenants at the Olympic Hotel. The U.S. force consists of 440 troops from the Army Rangers and Army Delta Force special forces, commanded by General William Garrison. Garrison requested light armored units (Bradley Infantry Fighting vehicles) that would offer more protection than the unarmored HMMWV Humvees. Garrison was denied the light armor by the Clinton administration. Garrison requested heavier air support (AC-130 Spectre gunships) that would offer better fire support than the UH-60 Blackhawk miniguns. Garrison was denied the air support by the Clinton administration. The Clinton administration did not want the American forces to appear too heavily armed for the peace-keeping role.

The actual mission turned out to be much harder than it needed to be, because of the resources denied by the Clinton administration. Although the Aidid lieutenants were captured, Aidid himself escaped. Eighty-four American soldiers were wounded. Eighteen American soldiers were killed, and their bodies were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. This was shown over and over by the media, and it undermined American resolve to help the Somali people. As a result, Clinton had the excuse he needed to retreat the American military.

(Source: Nova Online)

Two heroes lost their lives

Today, I want to talk about two of the men who lost their lives in Operation Gothic Serpent. They are Master Sergeant Gary I. Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randall D. Shughart – a Delta Force sniper team.

Here is a clip from the movie Blackhawk Down, which shows what happened to them:

The pilot of the downed Blackhawk was protected by the two men who volunteered to go in after him. They requested that they be inserted at the crash site, even though they knew that reinforcements were likely not going to be there in time to save them. They made the request to go and help the pilot three times before being allowed to go in. Their first two requests were denied by their commanding officer, because the odds against their survival were so overwhelming. The rescued pilot was later released by his captors, and the two heroes were awarded the Medal of Honor for their brave actions.

A Congressional Medal of Honor
A Congressional Medal of Honor

Here is a description of the requirements to be awarded a Medal of Honor:

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that may be awarded by the United States government. It is presented by the President of the United States, in the name of Congress, and is conferred only upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty:

  • While engaged in action against an enemy of the United States;
  • While engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
  • While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

You can read the official details of their actions.

The point of this post

It is important for Christians to be familiar with real-world examples of people giving their lives in order to save the lives of others. When we see real-world examples of self-sacrifice, it helps us to understand what Jesus really achieved for us, and what he must have felt making that hard choice to volunteer to go in and rescue us. In general, my philosophy when it comes to the Bible is to make every effort to connect what the Bible says to the real world. We must not push Christianity into some far-off world of piety and feelings. We must make connections to real evidence and real life, so that what the Bible says becomes practical, and so that we have a deep friendship with and sympathy for God revealed in Jesus Christ. In real life, being willing to give your life to save someone else is hard. Understanding how that really happens will help us to value what Jesus has done for us.

Bible verses

I saw this verse on the ground outside the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, NC, where I went for my summer vacation in 2015.

Isaiah 6:8:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Here is the picture I took (yes, that is my running shoe):

“Here am I, send me” Isaiah 6:8

When confronted with an opportunity to imitate Christ in his self-sacrifice, we should think less about ourselves and our own desires, and take the opportunity to serve others effectively. We do not do what makes us happy, and we do not pursue fun and thrills. We do what heals, we do what helps others. We do not push away our responsibility to imitate Christ by caring for those in danger. Christianity is not just about “not doing bad things”. It’s the good things you do because of your relationship with Jesus that show your real allegiance, and give you the experience of being a Christian in deed.

And here is another good verse:

John 15:13:

13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

If you get a chance to watch the movie Blackhawk Down, then do so. I highly recommend it. You can also read the book that the movie is based on.

I love the Medal of Honor books by Edward F. Murphy. He writes about all the people who have been awarded the Medal of honor in different wars: World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

If you check my reading list, you’ll find that I usually read two military books for every one book on another subject.

Three reasons why Christians should read military history

Roger Trimble, standing second from the left, in front of his B-24 Liberator
Roger Trimble, standing second from the left, in front of his B-24 Liberator

I recently finished a book called “Beyond The Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot’s Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front”. It’s about a World War 2 heavy bomber pilot who completes 35 missions, and then goes into the Soviet Union (our allies, at the time) to rescue American POWs who were starving or being kidnapped or murdered by the Soviet secret police.

I found a very good article about it from Stripes, to just quickly introduce the story:

Later, after making contact with POWs roaming the Polish countryside, [Capt. Robert Trimble] fully embraced his mission. He saw the desperate plight of those who had been liberated from Third Reich prison camps. Many were sick, emaciated, often clothed in rags and left to fend for themselves during a brutally harsh winter.

Trimble risked his life numerous times over six weeks, helping to rescue hundreds of POWs. He came to the aid of others, too. In one daring rescue, nearly foiled by Russian agents who had become suspicious of his activities, Trimble helped 400 French women make it out of Poland and back to France.

Although he was being constantly trailed by Russian spies and informers, he would evade them, and bring food and money to the POWs, then put them on a train to Odessa, Ukraine, where they could get onto a ship going home.

Why I read military history

It is hard to develop virtues just by wishing and hoping. Something has to go into your mind that causes you to think differently, and feel differently. Everything that you watch on TV, hear on the radio, or see in the movie theater, is made by secular leftists. They aren’t trying to build your moral character. They’re goal is to break down your resistance to their unBiblical worldview and moral values. Instead of giving people who hate Jesus your money, just so you can be entertained, why not try to put something in front of your eyes that will make you better?

Look at this famous passage from the Bible.

Romans 12:1-2:

1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

And also this from Philippians, my favorite book of the Bible.

Philippians 4:8:

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

So you can see that when I am reading, my goal is to work on my character. I want to have feelings about things that are appropriate for a Christian man.

So why military history? Here are three reasons why I read these military history books.

Humility

First, humility. Humility used to be one of my biggest challenges. So I thought to myself “instead of seeing yourself as some heroic figure, why don’t you read about some real heroes… people who willingly gave their lives for their friends, like the Bible urges, and like Jesus did by example”.

Remember this from John 15:13?

13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

Military history is filled with stories of courage, bravery, self-sacrifice, endurance, unselfishness, and many other virtues. When you read about people who are better than you, doing more important things than what you’re doing, it really helps you to be humble.

The best thing for humility is reading Medal of Honor citations. You can find a bunch of them online here. And if you want a book to read, try these books about Medal of Honor recipients:

Endurance

Second, endurance. I sometimes feel badly about not having found someone to marry and not having lots of children. I wanted a good marriage to be a model for others, and also to have an influence in the next generation through my children. However, whenever I read military history, I see a lot of young men dying in battle. And I think, they too won’t know what sex is like. And, they too won’t know what marriage is like. And, they too won’t know what having children is like. But it’s not just the ones who die, it’s the hardships they have to go through, as well. Cold, hunger, imprisonment, pain, loss of their friends, etc.

I remember reading about one of my favorite battles – probably the most famous battle of the Korean War, which is our most moral war. It’s about Fox Company of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division. They had to hold a hill beside a vital road against overwhelming numbers of Chinese soldiers during the freezing cold North Korean winter. I remember reading about how one soldier got up to go to the bathroom, and was nearly shot by a sniper. He fell over on his own poop, which had already frozen by the time it hit the ground. For months after, I would always think about this whenever I went into a bathroom. We have pre-warmed water in our bathrooms at work, along with soap, lysol spray, febreeze, contact lense cleaner, hand sanitizer, and other things. Just understanding what other people have to go through in war helps me to be more patient with the little tiny setbacks that I experience. I used to get very anxious when anything went wrong, because of I was raised by strict immigrant parents. That anxiety seemed to last a long time, but since I started to read military history, I’ve been much more patient. I know that things could be worse.

Thankfulness

The third thing that I’ve experienced is thankfulness. Not just for all the things that I have because of what our armed forces have done, e.g. – basic human rights, prosperity, liberty, security, etc. But also specifically about those who gave their lives so that I could live free in a free country, and practice my Christian faith without fear.

Here are two of my favorite Medal of Honor stories from World War 2, in the Battle of Pearl Harbor:

Congressional Medal of Honor
Awarded Posthumously
PETER TOMICH

Rank and organization: Chief Watertender, U.S. Navy.
Place and date: Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.
Born: 3 June 1893, Prolog, Austria.

Although realizing that the ship was capsizing as a result of enemy bombing and torpedoing, Tomich remained at his post in the engineering plant of the U.S.S. Utah, until he saw that all boilers were secured and all fireroom personnel had left their stations, and by so doing lost his own life.

And:

Congressional Medal of Honor
Awarded Posthumously
JAMES RICHARD WARD

Rank and organization: Seaman First Class, U.S. Navy.
Place and date: Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.
Born: 10 September 1921, Springfield, Ohio.

When it was seen that the U.S.S. Oklahoma was going to capsize and the order was given to abandon ship, Ward remained in a turret holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see to escape, thereby sacrificing his own life.

I do think that it’s important for Christians to read these kinds of stories in order to feed their own awareness of what it must have been like for Jesus to give his life voluntarily for us.

There is no shortcut to gratitude. You have to constantly reflect on the sacrifices made by others for you, if you are to have any concrete reason for feeling grateful. The more you read about examples of people giving their lives for others, the more you’ll appreciate what Jesus did for you. It will make you grateful.

There is a very annoying idea out there in the culture that says that people just do whatever is easy and fun for themselves, and since everyone else is always doing what makes them feel good, then there is no need to be thankful for anything. It’s comforting for people to delude themselves with that belief, but it’s false.

My reading list

You can check out the “What I am Reading” section of the blogto see which military history books I’ve been reading.

Hero awarded Medal of Honor for rescuing wounded soldiers while under fire

Air cavalry helicopters in the Vietnam War
Air cavalry helicopters in the Vietnam War

I’ve finally read enough about World War 2 and the Korean War to move on to the Vietnam war. In this war, America is fighting communists from North Vietnam who are invading the democracy of South Vietnam to make their country communist. While reading several books, I found a story about American soldiers who risked their lives for others while under fire from the enemy.

The story I found was in the book “Legend: The Incredible Story of Green Beret Sergeant Roy Benavidez’s Heroic Mission to Rescue a Special Forces Team Caught Behind Enemy Lines“.

An American Special Forces team of 12 people – 3 Americans, and 9 Motagnard natives – was discovered by North Vietnamese communists behind enemy lines in Cambodia. After a short firefight, they called for extraction. They were quickly surrounded by about 1000 enemy soldiers. It was extremely difficult for the helicopters to extract them. Some the Special Forces men and helicopter crews were wounded or killed during the extraction attempt.

I wanted to mention especially two of the men who were killed from the Special Operations team:

  • SFC Leroy N. Wright, Newark, NJ (Dist Svc Cross)
  • SSG Lloyd F. Mousseau, Cudahy, CA (Dist Svc Cross)

Here’s some more detail about Leroy Wright, the team leader:

Leroy Wright was the leader of a 12 man special operations recon team inserted secretly by helicopter into Northern Cambodia about 60 miles NW of Saigon. His mission was to capture an NVA truck and return with the truck to Vietnam with a load of Russian supplies to prove give physical proof that the Viet Cong were being supplied through Cambodia.

Unfortunately Wright’s team was landed in the midst of a large force of hundreds of NVA regulars deployed in depth around their landing zone. They were compromised when their hiding place was discovered by two NVA soldiers. Lloyd Mousseau, assistant team leader killed these men sliently but a shot was fired by one of them alerting the other NVA in the vicinity.

Wright requested permission for extraction but was ordered to continue the mission by his superiors in Vietnam. He followed his orders and moved towards his objective, but soon encountered a patrol of about 12 NVA. In a brief but noisy fight his team wiped out the NVA partrol without any casualties to the team. He then immediately called for emergency extraction and rushed the team to the planned pickup zone.

At the pickup zone Wright encountered numerous NVA troops and became locked in a fire fight which killed or wounded all of his men. The emergency extraction force, a flight of four UH1C gunships, call sign Maddogs, and four UH1H slicks, call sign Greyhounds, soon approached the pickup zone but it was driven away by intense and accurate enemy fire that killed one crew member, Michael Craig, and wounded others.

On the ground Wright moved about his beleagured team encouraging them and repositioning them to defend the extraction landing zone. While redeploying one group of his men he was hit by enemy fire and lost the use of his legs. Then two enemy grenades fell between him and his teammates, endangering them all. Wright threw one back at the enemy but only had time to roll his body onto the second grenade before it exploded lifting him into the air. Wright survived this explosion and fought on for a time firing his weapon until he was killed by a shot in his head.

I also wanted to mention the pilot from second Huey helicopter that was shot down:

Here are some more details about McKibben:

Warrant Officer McKibben distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 2 May 1968 as aircraft commander of a helicopter supporting ground operations near Loc Ninh. A small reconnaissance team was pursued by a numerically superior enemy force, and Mister McKibben immediately extracted it. A larger team, replacing the first, was quickly surrounded by two companies of North Vietnamese Army troops and he volunteered to attempt a second extraction mission.

At the landing zone a supporting gunship was shot down by the murderous enemy fire. Despite extreme hazard to his safety, Mister McKibben braved the savage fusillade to land and successfully rescue the downed crew. After refueling, he returned to the area and prepared to rescue the ground force. Although he was informed that two helicopters had sustained casualties to their crews attempting pickups during his absence, he fearlessly maneuvered through a hail of fire, reached the landing zone and began loading troops. The enemy force concentrated their full firepower on his craft, but he refused to take off until all survivors were on board. As he prepared to fly out of the landing zone, he was instantly killed by an enemy bullet passing through the cockpit.

Please take a moment to remember the men who died that day, fighting communism in Vietnam so that we could enjoy our freedom from tyranny. We will remember them.

But I do have a positive story. A Green Beret Special Forces soldier who heard the request for help from the Special Forces team was awarded the Medal of Honor for helping to extract the wounded while under fire himself. His name was Roy Benavidez.

Here is his Medal of Honor citation:

Master Sergeant (then Staff Sergeant) Roy P. BENAVIDEZ United States Army, distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely valorous actions on 2 May 1968 while assigned to Detachment B56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam.

On the morning of 2 May 1968, a 12-man Special Forces Reconnaissance Team was inserted by helicopters of the 240th Assault Helicopter Company in a dense jungle area west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam to gather intelligence information about the confirmed large-scale enemy activity. This area was controlled and routinely patrolled by the North Vietnamese Army. After a short period of time on the ground, the team met heavy enemy resistance, and requested emergency extraction. Three helicopters attempted extraction but were unable to land due to intense enemy small arms and anti-aircraft fire.

Sergeant BENAVIDEZ was at the Forward Operating Base in Loc Ninh monitoring the operation by radio when these helicopters, of the 240th Assault Helicopter Company, returned to off-load wounded crew members and to assess aircraft damage. Sergeant BENAVIDEZ voluntarily boarded a returning aircraft to assist in another extraction attempt. Realizing that all the team members were either dead or wounded and unable to move to the pickup zone, he directed the aircraft to a nearby clearing where he jumped from the hovering helicopter, and ran approximately 75 meters under withering small arms fire to the crippled team.

Prior to reaching the team’s position he was wounded in his right leg, face, and head. Despite these painful injuries, he took charge, repositioning the team members and directing their fire to facilitate the landing of an extraction aircraft, and the loading of wounded and dead team members. He then threw smoke canisters to direct the aircraft to the team’s position. Despite his severe wounds and under intense enemy fire, he carried and dragged half of the wounded team members to the awaiting aircraft. He then provided protective fire by running alongside the aircraft as it moved to pick up the remaining team members. As the enemy’s fire intensified, he hurried to recover the body and classified documents on the dead team leader.

When he reached the leader’s body, Sergeant BENAVIDEZ was severely wounded by small arms fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. At nearly the same moment, the aircraft pilot was mortally wounded, and his helicopter crashed. Although in extremely critical condition due to his multiple wounds, Sergeant BENAVIDEZ secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he aided the wounded out of the overturned aircraft, and gathered the stunned survivors into a defensive perimeter. Under increasing enemy automatic weapons and grenade fire, he moved around the perimeter distributing water and ammunition to his weary men, reinstilling in them a will to live and fight. Facing a buildup of enemy opposition with a beleaguered team, Sergeant BENAVIDEZ mustered his strength, began calling in tactical air strikes and directed the fire from supporting gunships to suppress the enemy’s fire and so permit another extraction attempt.

He was wounded again in his thigh by small arms fire while administering first aid to a wounded team member just before another extraction helicopter was able to land. His indomitable spirit kept him going as he began to ferry his comrades to the craft. On his second trip with the wounded, he was clubbed from behind by an enemy soldier. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, he sustained additional wounds to his head and arms before killing his adversary. He then continued under devastating fire to carry the wounded to the helicopter. Upon reaching the aircraft, he spotted and killed two enemy soldiers who were rushing the craft from an angle that prevented the aircraft door gunner from firing upon them. With little strength remaining, he made one last trip to the perimeter to ensure that all classified material had been collected or destroyed, and to bring in the remaining wounded.

Only then, in extremely serious condition from numerous wounds and loss of blood, did he allow himself to be pulled into the extraction aircraft. Sergeant BENAVIDEZ’ gallant choice to join voluntarily his comrades who were in critical straits, to expose himself constantly to withering enemy fire, and his refusal to be stopped despite numerous severe wounds, saved the lives of at least eight men. His fearless personal leadership, tenacious devotion to duty, and extremely valorous actions in the face of overwhelming odds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him and the United States Army.

If you’re looking for a good book on helicopter operations in the Vietnam war, I’ve just finished “To the Limit: An Air Cav Huey Pilot in Vietnam” and really enjoyed it. Regarding special operations in the Vietnam war, I just finished “Uncommon Valor: The Recon Company that Earned Five Medals of Honor and Included America’s Most Decorated Green Beret” which was almost as good.

Marine Captain earned Medal of Honor fighting communists in North Korea

First, let’s go from the top down to set the context for the profile of William E. Barber.

Map of the Korean War
Map of the Korean War

In the summer of 1950, North Korean communists launch a completely unprovoked attack across the 38th parallel against their peaceful, democratic neighbors, the South Koreans. The Americans immediately sent an invasion force by sea to drive them out. The North Koreans easily manage to take over the capital Seoul, and the allies are left with only one port in the southeast – Pusan. In September of 1950, American forces land an invasion force at Inchon, cutting off the North Korean invasion force surrounding Pusan. The North Koreans retreat, and there is hope that American forces will be home by Christmas. But then, unbeknownst to the Americans, the Chines communists  invade North Korea from the north and surround the American forces near the Chosin reservoir, threatening to annihilate an entire Marine division.

The Marines at Yudam-Ni are surrounded and must retreat to Hagaru-Ri
The Marines at Yudam-Ni are surrounded and must retreat to Hagaru-Ri

As you can see from the map, there are a whole bunch of American troops fighting to the north/east and south/west of the Chosin Reservoir. The marines near Yudam-Ni need to retreat along a road called the MSR (main supply road) back to Hagaru-Ri. But in order to conduct that retreat, they have to hold onto the vital Toktong pass, which is overwatched by Fox company from their position on Fox Hill. Can Charlie company and Fox company hold off the entire Chinese 59th division (10,000 men) with only two companies (about 250 men each)?

U.S. Marines "The Chosin Few", December 1950
U.S. Marines “The Chosin Few”, December 1950

Well, the book I read (which Dina gave me for Christmas), was about Fox company and their defense of the Toktong pass. This is what the leftist New York Times had to say about the man in charge of Fox company (“F company”) in a 2002 article:

Col. William E. Barber, who won the Medal of Honor for his leadership of a vastly outnumbered company under siege on a snowy hilltop in one of the worst defeats in Marine history, the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in 1950, died on April 19 at his home in Irvine, Calif. He was 82.

The cause was bone-marrow cancer, said Jerry Courtier, a friend who hopes to write Colonel Barber’s biography.

The reservoir is south of the Yalu River, which separates North Korea from China. After the Americans had pushed the North Koreans almost to the Yalu, 150,000 Chinese troops unexpectedly crossed the river into North Korea. Colonel Barber’s unit, Company F of the Second Battalion of the Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, was on a hill that commanded the Toktong Pass, a vital gap between Yudam Ni and Hagaru Ri, two towns separated by 78 miles.

The stakes were huge. If F Company yielded its position, 8,000 marines at Yudam Ni would be cut off from the 3,000 at Haguru Ri by tens of thousands of Chinese troops.

Through five days and six nights in subzero weather and often swirling snow, Colonel Barber, then a captain, inspired his men, outnumbered more than five to one, to cling to their tenuous positions. He was shot in a bone near his groin on the second day but continued to make the rounds of the hill. He likened the wound to a bee sting.

When the unit was ordered to withdraw and fight its way to safety, Captain Barber refused. Three times, the enemy broke through the line, only to be repulsed.

”I knew that we could probably hold, and I knew that if we didn’t hold we could exact a very heavy toll,” he said in an interview in 1976 with The Los Angeles Times.

His citation for the nation’s top medal said that he commanded his men from a stretcher. But Hector A. Cafferata Jr., who as a rifleman won the Medal of Honor in the same battle, insisted that Captain Barber refused the stretcher.

”He walked the line, he kept us together,” said Mr. Cafferata, who was beside Captain Barber when he was shot.

In the mayhem, the Chinese blew whistles, beat cymbals and tooted bugles as they repeatedly attacked. Coffee froze before men could drink it, and some of the wounded died because plasma froze with no way to thaw it.

When the battle was over, more than 1,000 enemy soldiers were dead. Of Captain Barber’s original 240 men, 82 were able to walk away.

Gen. Raymond G. Davis, who was a lieutenant colonel in the Marines, received a Medal of Honor for leading the unit that rescued F Company.

William Earl Barber was born on Nov. 30, 1919, in Dehart, Ky. He attended what is now Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky., for two years and enlisted in the Marines, at the age of 21, in 1940.

He was so good at shooting a rifle that he was made a weapons instructor. After volunteering for parachute training, he demonstrated such proficiency that he became a parachute instructor.

In World War II, he was promoted to sergeant in 1942 and commissioned a second lieutenant in 1943. He was a rifle platoon commander at Camp Pendleton, Calif., when his unit was shipped to the Pacific.

Colonel Barber was in the first wave to hit Iwo Jima, where he was wounded twice. He received the Silver Star for bravery in addition to two Purple Hearts. At a ceremony on the 50th anniversary of the battle in 1995, he said:

”I am older now, as you are, but I can still see the colors of that February morning. The sky. The island. And sometimes I think I can hear the noise of battle.”

He was treated in Japan for his wounds and returned to the United States, where he worked as a recruiter, among other positions. He was promoted to captain in 1949 and was in the force that occupied Japan.

When he joined F Company in Korea, he saw a raggedy unshaven bunch and immediately ordered the the troops to shave, shine their shoes and look like marines. He suggested that his new charges resembled Pancho Villa’s bandits.

”He was one tough guy,” Mr. Cafferata said. ”He was by the book.”

He was by the book. He enlisted in the Marines because he was grateful to his country for allowing him to escape poverty and go into college, and he wanted to give something back.

You can read a review of the book I read about Fox company, and read about some of the details of what it was like for those men. You’ll never look at your own troubles the same way again. You can also read about Barber’s Medal of Honor citation here.

The Medal of Honor, Navy and Marines variant
The Medal of Honor, Navy and Marines variant

So, now that I am done with that book, I have moved on to another Korean War book that Dina gave me, this one about George company. The Korean War might have been our most just war – defending a peaceful democratic ally from a totalitarian communist regime. You just have to compare North Korea and South Korea today to understand the stakes. North Korea is basically a godless concentration camp that tortures and murders its people if they so much as think the wrong thoughts about the atheist state. South Korea is free and prosperous, where the people have human rights, like the right to free speech and freedom of religion.

It’s important for me to read about the hardships that real heroes face, so that I don’t complain too much about my own tiny struggles. When you read about the struggles of great American soldiers, so many good things happen to you. Your own problems get smaller, your humility and gratitude get bigger. And you are reminded about why America is a great country, and what American character is really like. These things are not taught by leftists in the public schools. They are not talked about by leftists in the mainstream media. They are not presented by leftists in the Hollywood film industry. If you want to know the real America, you have to find it yourself.

Thinking practically about the gospel with an illustration from a war movie

The city of Mogadishu, in Somalia, Africa
The city of Mogadishu, in Somalia, Africa

I decided to re-post one of my favorite posts for Memorial Day.

First, let’s get an overview that helps us understand the context and goals of the mission we are going to discuss.

The scene is set in Somalia, Africa, in 1992. There a civil war between two warlords: Ali Mahdi and Mohammed Farah Aidid. The war has destroyed agricultural operations, and the people are starving. The United Nations are trying to help, but Aidid hijacks the food from UN aircraft so that he can use the food to gain control of the people. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis are dying of starvation. The UN requests American military forces to secure the air-dropped supplies so they can be distributed to the starving people.

In December 1992, President George H.W. Bush answers the call, sending 25,000 troops to Somalia to protect the food from the Somali warlords. However, in 1993, Bill Clinton is elected. He orders that the number of U.S. troops be reduced to 12,000. Following an attack by Aidid on Pakistani peace-keepers, the U.N. issues a resolution to capture those responsible. The U.S. armed forces have the arms and training to battle evil, so they get the call to capture Aidid and his lieutenants.

In late August 1993, Task Force Ranger is deployed to Mogadishu to capture Aidid and his lieutenants at the Olympic Hotel. The U.S. force consists of 440 troops from the Army Rangers and Army Delta Force special forces, commanded by General William Garrison. Garrison requested light armored units (Bradley Infantry Fighting vehicles) that would offer more protection than the unarmored HMMWV Humvees. Garrison was denied the light armor by the Clinton administration. Garrison requested heavier air support (AC-130 Spectre gunships) that would offer better fire support than the UH-60 Blackhawk miniguns. Garrison was denied the air support by the Clinton administration. The Clinton administration did not want the American forces to appear too heavily armed for the peace-keeping role.

The actual mission turned out to be much harder than it needed to be, because of the resources denied by the Clinton administration. Although the Aidid lieutenants were captured, Aidid himself escaped. Eighty-four American soldiers were wounded. Eighteen American soldiers were killed, and their bodies were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. This was shown over and over by the media, and it undermined American resolve to help the Somali people. As a result, Clinton had the excuse he needed to retreat the American military.

(Source: Nova Online)

Two heroes lost their lives

Today, I want to talk about two of the men who lost their lives in Operation Gothic Serpent. They are Master Sergeant Gary I. Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randall D. Shughart – a Delta Force sniper team.

Here is a clip from the movie Blackhawk Down, which shows what happened to them:

The pilot of the downed Blackhawk was protected by the two men who volunteered to go in after him. They requested that they be inserted at the crash site, even though they knew that reinforcements were likely not going to be there in time to save them. They made the request to go and help the pilot three times before being allowed to go in. Their first two requests were denied by their commanding officer, because the odds against their survival were so overwhelming. The rescued pilot was later released by his captors, and the two heroes were awarded the Medal of Honor for their brave actions.

A Congressional Medal of Honor
A Congressional Medal of Honor

Here is a description of the requirements to be awarded a Medal of Honor:

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that may be awarded by the United States government. It is presented by the President of the United States, in the name of Congress, and is conferred only upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty:

  • While engaged in action against an enemy of the United States;
  • While engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
  • While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

You can read the official details of their actions.

The point of this post

It is important for Christians to be familiar with real-world examples of people giving their lives in order to save the lives of others. When we see real-world examples of self-sacrifice, it helps us to understand what Jesus really achieved for us, and what he must have felt making that hard choice to volunteer to go in and rescue us. In general, my philosophy when it comes to the Bible is to make every effort to connect what the Bible says to the real world. We must not push Christianity into some far-off world of piety and feelings. We must make connections to real evidence and real life, so that what the Bible says becomes practical, and so that we have a deep friendship with and sympathy for God revealed in Jesus Christ. In real life, being willing to give your life to save someone else is hard. Understanding how that really happens will help us to value what Jesus has done for us.

Bible verses

I saw this verse on the ground outside the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, NC, where I went for my summer vacation in 2015. (Thanks to my friend Curby who hosted me)

Isaiah 6:8:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Here is the picture I took (yes, that is my running shoe):

“Here am I, send me” Isaiah 6:8

When confronted with an opportunity to imitate Christ in his self-sacrifice, we should think less about ourselves and our own desires, and take the opportunity to serve others effectively. We do not do what makes us happy, and we do not pursue fun and thrills. We do what heals, we do what helps others. We do not push away our responsibility to imitate Christ by caring for those in danger. Christianity is not just about “not doing bad things”. It’s the good things you do because of your relationship with Jesus that show your real allegiance, and give you the experience of being a Christian in deed.

And here is another good verse:

John 15:13:

13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

If you get a chance to watch the movie Blackhawk Down, then do so. I highly recommend it. You can also read the book that the movie is based on.

I love the Medal of Honor books by Edward F. Murphy. He writes about all the people who have been awarded the Medal of honor in different wars: World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

If you check my reading list, you’ll find that I usually read two military books for every one book on another subject.