Is Jessica Lynch a hero? Does she deserve a Medal for bravery?
Is she in the league of Sergeant Alvin York or Lt. Audie Murphy?
What makes a hero? Find out.
6, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 571
Jessica Lynch--America's 21st
Century Sergeant York?
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, Apr. 6-- Every war needs a hero--the
average American who undergoes extraordinary challenges.
These heroes become our Saints of Vigilance, our Symbols of Security,
for they rise out of the ordinary, out of the common dust to which all
wearing Congressional Medal of Honor
In World War I, a tall lanky guy from
Pall Mall, Tennessee became the icon of heroism. His name was
Alvin Cullium York, born Dec. 13, 1887.
York was drafted in 1917.
Growing up, York learned to shoot from his father. Later, he
took to "drinkin' and smok'n," (see his personal diary) and thought of
himself as Jesse James. He practiced shooting from a horse
with deadly accuracy.
Then he met Gracie Williams.
She convinced him to give up his worldly ways and he became religious
and a tee tottler.
In the Army, he refused to shoot at
human silhouette targets even though he was deadly accurate at 200-500
Then the rubber hit the road.
In the battle of the Argonne Forest in the fall of 1918, York was a
private with the 82nd division. Threatened with life or death,
York rallied to support his fellow troops. He killed 25
Germans, knocked out 35 machine guns and captured 132 prisoners almost
For his heroism, he received the French
Medaille Militaire, the Croix de Guerre, the Italian Groce de Guerra
and the United States Congress Medal Of Honor.
Upon his return, he married Gracie
Williams. Sergeant York died in 1964.
was the most decorated war hero in American history
In World War II, the most decorated soldier
was a man named Audie Murphy.
Murphy was small, 5-feet, 5-inches and
underweight 110 lbs when he tried to enlist in the Marines and
Paratroopers on his 18th birthday in 1942. Orphaned at 16,
Murphy received only five years of education. He was a
sharecropper's son, and was noted for his daring with a gun and his
In combat, Murphy showed such incredible
courage and leadership he was given a battlefield commission. He
spent 400 days on the front lines with the 15th Infantry, and earned
every medal of valor America offers, a total of thirty-three. He
became the most decorated war hero in American history.
He went to Hollywood and made forty-four
films, starring in thirty-nine of them. He was killed in a plane
crash on a mountaintop near Roanoke, Virginia on May 28, 1971.
So how does Pfc. Lynch stack up to
Sergeant York and Lt. Audie Murphy, two of America's most famous war
First, Jessica Lynch, 19, comes from
simple roots. Her family is from Palestine, West Virginia, part
of Wirt County. The county started out with a population
of 10,284 in 1900. Over the past 100 years instead of swelling
as most counties, the number of people has been cut nearly in half, to
Palestine, the city where Lynch
lives, is a dot on the map. Her humble roots are best
summed up by her kindergarten teacher, Linda Davies, who read from a
letter she got from Jessica six weeks ago. In it, Jessica was
boasting of how much of the world she had seen already. "I've
been to places half of Wirt County will never see," she wrote.,
referring to her visits to Mexico, Germany and Kuwait.
Davies said Jessica's goal is to be a teacher, but she wanted to
travel first before settling down.
Lynch, hero, willing to die for her country
Jessica Lynch's life is
going to change, just as Alvin York's and Audie Murphy's lives were
changed by events greater than themselves.
In all three cases, the
actors were humble people, from humble roots. They
represented the heart and soul of Americanism, the earthiness of it.
Jessica Lynch is a small town
country girl. Her values rise up out of the earth not from
the lectern of some intellectual pundit who claims the greatest
liberty of all is the right to burn the American flag.
Some values, mundane to
others, are rich and powerful legacies. Patriotism is one
of those that Jessica Lynch held to, as did Alvin York and Audie
Patriotism and the duty
to support his country forced Alvin York to bear arms even though his
religious views held fast against killing and death. He
was a moral protestor who, when it came down to kill or be killed,
used his skills to cause the surrender of the enemy who ultimately
feared his killing precision.
Jessica Lynch has a
family tradition of serving in the military. Both her
brothers are enlisted as well as herself.
But serving is not
heroism. Fate has a lot to do with it.
On March 23 Iraqi forces
ambushed the US Army's 507th Maintenance Company and took a number of
prisoners, including Jessica.
In a script that seems as
though Hollywood wrote it, an Iraqi lawyer became so upset at beatings
given Jessica that he escaped to American lines and scrawled out the
location of the hospital where Jessica was being held prisoner.
The Iraqi, named "Mohammed" told the Marines the soldiers were
threatening to amputate Jessica's leg.
In the first successful POW
rescue since WWII, Black Hawk helicopters swooped in under cover and
rescued Pfc. Lynch. They found 11 other bodies at the
site, one of them another young woman soldier.
Heroism comes in many shapes
Sometimes, it's as simple as
standing up to the enemy when you didn't have to.
Alvin York, despite his
religious convictions, stood up to the Beast of Terror.
continued to remain on the front lines
So did Audie Murphy, not once,
but countless times. Murphy could have retired from the
front at any moment he chose, but instead remained on the front lines,
risking his life over and over when he didn't have to.
Jessica Lynch is alive
today for a reason.
Even though her story is
not known, she must have defied the Iraqi's or they would not have
beaten her. The Iraqi lawyer and his wife who
witnessed the torture and risked their lives to find friendly U.S.
forces to tell so they could rescue Pfc. Lynch, must have been
stricken by the young woman's resolve.
How then does Pfc. Lynch
stand up to the heroism of a Sergeant York or an Audie Murphy?
Perhaps just her
willingness to be in combat is enough to justify her bravery.
Here is a young
woman assigned to a tank maintenance unit, braving enemy territory to
bring supplies to her fellow soldiers.
Many thousands of
19-year-old young women Jessica's age were not in harm's way.
They may have been gleefully holding up protest signs at some anti-war
rally, or, cruising the mall on a shopping spree, or eagerly looking
for a husband, or, searching for a job or career. Not many
chose to enlist in the military with the looming clouds of war hanging
But Jessica and a brave
number of other women did.
Now, the spotlight is on
And, the question is
being asked--Is Jessica a hero? Does she rank up with the great
heroes of American wars--the likes of York and Murphy?
York Commemorative Stamp was issued in 2000
Jessica Lynch didn't
kill--at least we don't know this at the moment--countless Iraqis
before being captured. She didn't capture hundreds of them
as did Sergeant York. And, her front-line experience was
limited to one foray turned sour.
So how could she possibly
qualify for the label of "hero."
Bravery awards are
designated for those who "go above and beyond the call of duty."
There are certain behaviors expected of any warrior and then there are
those that exceed the average, the expected. It is those
behaviors that make the chemistry for a hero or not.
Did Jessica Lynch's
defiance of her captors achieve that degree?
Were her broken bones
symbols of her struggle to escape, to fight back, and the Iraqi's way
of retribution? Or, were they broken in the due course of
And why did they
keep Jessica alive and kill the other prisoners? Was
Jessica's defiance so much of a challenge that beating her until she
surrendered her will gave Jessica life? Had she not been
so defiant, might her captors have killed her when she did surrender
to whatever it was they threatened upon her?
speculation until there is a clear and concise reporting on the events
that transpired, and even then, we may never know exactly what
But there is one thing
War Women's Memorial
Something heroic happened
in the hospital in al-Nasiriyah where Jessica was held prisoner.
heroic happened to cause an Iraqi lawyer and his wife to risk their
lives in a five-day search for U.S. Marines to tell them the story of
Pfc. Lynch's capture and maltreatment. Certainly, there is
something heroic about the Americans believing the story, and not
considering it a trap, and sending in crack troops to free Jessica.
There is something also
heroic about the fact that the rescue team, having no shovels, dug at
the earth with their fingers to unearth the bodies of 11 others who
had been killed at the site.
What is bravery?
What is courage? What is heroism?
highest order of heroism be defying the enemy when 11 others had been
killed and you were the last, awaiting a painful execution?
mere presence of Pfc. Lynch in a battle zone, subject to the same
tortures and pain of any soldier, an act of bravery sufficient for a
heroic award? Or, was she just doing her job, as any soldier?
not easy to define heroes.
way, I hold up Pfc. Jessica Lynch as a top hero, worthy of the Silver
Star, America's third highest valor award. She deserves it
for no other reason--and there may be many more than this--than
reminding America and the world of the willingness of young Americans
to die for others in distant lands.
is not the disenfranchised image you would hear war protestors rail
upon that fill the ranks of the military. She doesn't fit the
typecast of the marginalized puppet driven into the U.S. military to
be used on the front lines by greedy generals as fodder for enemy
the great myths of anti-American war propaganda evaporates with every
scene and story of Jessica Lynch. She's an average American
girl, about as pure American as you can get, willing to die for her
She shames the war protestors who carry horrible signs demeaning
America and calling America criminal for its actions, and showing the
military as oil-thirsty beast out to rape, pillage and plunder the
world. Shame. Shame. Shame.
19-year-olds who take to the streets to scream ugliness upon America
do so in the shadow of the bravery of Jessica Lynch to withstand the
torture of her captors who use the American protests as fuel to
inflict more pain on Jessica. "See," they say, "Your
own countrymen hate you for invading us. See, you deserve all
the pain we can give you. You are, by your own countrymen's
signs and words, evil. You are evil, Jessica! Take
that. Take that!"
scene turns my stomach, but it could be brutally true.
Every time an American protests against the war, it is another fist in
the face of a POW.
Jessica didn't fold
when the Iraqi security agents hit her.
She so impressed
the 32-year-old Iraqi lawyer, Mohammed, that he went on a great
journey to get Jessica help.
I see Jessica
as a Sentinel of
What then makes a
Is it the fact she
survives? Is it that she is a woman? Is it that she
represents the first POW rescued since WWII? Is it that
America has rallied behind Jessica as they might their own daughter?
see Jessica Lynch as a Sentinel of Vigilance. I see her
equal to those brave souls who rushed into the World Trade Center to
help others. I see her as the person on the 95th floor
more concerned about getting everyone else out of the building than
I see Jessica
Lynch standing in her uniform at attention as some protestor spits in
her face and calls her a war criminal and shouts ugly words in her
face, and does nothing but stand at attention, unfaltering, knowing in
her heart the greatest thing she fought for, and her friends died for
in Iraq, was the freedom to say anything without fear or reprisal.
I also see Jessica
Lynch as feeling sorry for the girl who spat in her face, sorry that
she is so blind and so embittered she cannot see the power and might
of freedom, and can only see its ugliness.
"I am an
American soldier" said Jessica
When I was listening to the reports of what Jessica Lynch
said when her rescuers approached her in hospital bed,
I felt a tear swell. The first American
in is reported to have said, "Jessica, I am an American
soldier here to take you out of her."
And Jessica's response: "I am an American soldier!"
Her words, I believe, were the American flag.
It flew out of her mouth.
"I am an American soldier!"
greater act of heroism or bravery could one perform after
being tortured and beaten--the last American alive in
enemy captivity--than to shout out: "I am an
Yes, I think Sergeant Alvin York and Lt. Audie Murphy
would be proud to have Pfc. Jessica Lynch standing between
them in the Hall of Vigilance's Heroes.
April 5--General Patton vs. Protesting College Professors
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