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Thursday, May 01, 2008

HEROES WALK AMONG US 

HEROES WALK AMONG US

To see him in a normal social setting, the casual observer would note only the college student, dressed in a plaid flannel shirt and blue jeans. Of average height, you might notice that he had an above average muscular build, but nothing to make him stand out in a crowd. The very slight limp, as he crossed the room, would be hard for most people to detect.

The other young man is certainly notable for his height. Standing almost 6’5”, with the build of an athlete, he does stand out. But his youthful face and business casual attire would peg him as a young man just entering the business world.

These two young men, both well known to me, have several things in common. Both are Eagle Scouts from my very small central Iowa BSA district. Both are the same age as my youngest son, and served with him as summer camp counselors at our local Scout reservation. One is currently a college student, while the other graduated with my son from Iowa State. They have one more thing in common. Both are decorated combat veterans, and survivors of wounds received in Iraq.

The college student is Sgt Mike F. Mike joined the Army after attending our local Junior College. He was sent to Iraq with a Bradley Fighting Vehicle Unit. His leadership earned him an early trip back to the US, not to be excused from serving in combat, but to train with the first Stryker Brigade before they were deployed to Iraq. While in Iraq for the second time, he led a squad into a building to clear it of terrorists. Entering one room, he was bayoneted from behind by a terrorist hiding in a closet. After disposing of his attacker, Sgt. Mike returned to his Stryker, and put his Scout experience to work. He grabbed a roll of duck tape, wound it around his bleeding leg, and rejoined his squad. He was not seen by any medical personnel until his entire unit returned to their forward operating base. He was stitched up and kept overnight for observation, returning to his unit the next day. He completed his entire 15 month tour without any further interruption. He told me the limp can be fixed with some tendon repair, but that can wait until he finishes his graduate degree.

The tall young man joined the Army ROTC while in college. After graduation, he went through his initial training, and was accepted into Army Ranger training. Second Lieutenant Mike S. was sent to Iraq with his Rangers, and saw his first combat two days after arrival. In the first month, he learned about one disadvantage to his height. He was struck in the head by a snipers bullet. It pierced his helmet, and he describes how “it kind of rattled around doing some minor damage to my forehead, ear and hairline.” Several months later, while on patrol, he was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. The warhead missed him, and so did not detonate. However, the fin left a deep gash in his thigh. He finished his patrol before seeking medical care and multiple stitches. Asked how he completed his mission with the pain from his leg, Lt. Mike said he didn’t really notice the pain. He was too busy looking for the second RPG that usually followed an initial attack. While Mike survived both wounds, neither the sniper nor the RPG shooter did. He has a month off, before returning to duty. He was offered a position with Army intelligence, but instead applied for Special Forces training. He is excited that he was accepted for this assignment.

So, two young Iowa sons, exceptional not in appearance, nor notable for athletic competition, or business success. Average in most respects, they would not be noticeable while in a mall, at church, or having a cold tall one with friends. They are among the thousands of quiet heroes that walk among us every day. Yet most of us do not know them, nor do we thank them. Two young men who do the things that most of us can’t do, or won’t do. Yet, everything we are able to do so freely are the result of the quiet courage of men and women like them.

I look at these young men , and the twenty-two other former Scouts and adult leaders (my Air Force son among them) serving in the military from my small District here in flyover country, and I am in awe of the character they show every day. We are indeed blessed that we have heroes that walk among us. Unknown, unrecognized, but there when we need them the most.


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