Beyond the call of Duty…
January 8, 2017 Veterans Corner by Ronald Verini,
Commitment, Dedication, Perseverance, Determination, are but a few ‘words’ that somewhat describe the ‘actions’ which our men and women in the military service of their country, hold within themselves that bring forth that ‘resolve and willpower, that ‘strength of character’ to ‘keep going’ and with purpose to go ‘beyond-the-call-of-duty’ to fulfill a goal and a mission. Sometimes this ‘action’ when triggered, is a fulfillment of personal conscious ‘hope and desire’, and other times’ is reflected upon as ‘where did that come from’. Well, there are many stories of Valor and courage, fearlessness and heroism of our men and women from the battlefield and most generally they are from the traditional requirements of military life which mandates an ‘oath’ to obey the lawful orders of the ‘chain-of-command’. By adhering to that ‘oath’ troops naturally believe that the order ‘serves the greater good, is not illegal and would not be ordered into ‘harm’s way’ unless necessary.
But, there have been some ‘exceptions to that ‘order’ though not from disobeying as being illegal, but because lives could possibly be saved and the risk was worth it. Here are a few of these stories as told by Blake Stilwell, a USAF veteran and combat cameraman.
In early July of 1863, Maj. General Daniel Sickles, Union Army, Civil War, through a ‘slight disobedience’ to orders during the Battle of Gettysburg, actually changed the momentum of the war and may have changed the entire history of the United States. “In a move historians haven’t stopped talking about for over 150 years, Sickles moved his men to Peach Orchard instead of Little Round Top, as Gen. George E. Meade ordered him. This move prompted Confederate Gen. James Longstreet to attack the Union Troops in the orchard and the wheat field, nearly destroying the Union forces there. This admittedly sounds terrible. However, that Confederate move allowed Union troops to flank them in a counteroffensive and completely ‘rout’ the Confederate forces, winning Gettysburg for the Union and ending Robert E. Lee’s invasion of the North. Sickles himself lost a leg in the fighting, but received the Medal of Honor and helped preserve Gettysburg as a national historic site after the war.” What sparked interest in doing this article was a gift of a Gettysburg cup from a friend, and the stories that ensued around the coffee table at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida.
In September 1918, 1st Lt. Frank Luke, Jr., US Army Air Corps, WWI, “was ‘grounded’ by his commanding officer and told that if he disobeyed, he would be charged with being AWOL. But Luke, an Ace with 15 aerial victories flew anyway, going out to find military reconnaissance balloons. Balloons sound like an easy target, but they were heavily defended by anti-aircraft weapons. He knocked down three balloons that day before he was forced down by machine gun fire. Once out of his plane (which he landed, he wasn’t shot down) he kept fighting the Germans with his sidearm until a bullet wounded and killed him. Luke is the first pilot to receive the Medal of Honor”.
For his actions between April and June 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa, Cpl. Desmond Doss, US Army, WWII, was the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor. “Doss wanted to serve, he just wasn’t willing to kill to do it and ‘refused every order’ to carry a weapon or fire one. However, Doss would do anything to save his men, repeatedly braving Japanese fire to pull the injured to the rear. As his unit climbed a vertical Cliffside at Okinawa, the Japanese open up with artillery, mortars, and machine guns, turning his unit back and killing or wounding 75 men. Doss retrieved them one by one, loading them onto a litter and down the cliff. A few days later during a shower of grenades he dressed wounds and made four trips pulling out his soldiers. He treated his own wounds and waited 5 hours to be carried out. On the way back they were ambushed, Doss left his litter to tend the wounded and have them moved out. While waiting, he was hit in the arm by a sniper, crawled 300 yards to an aid station and finally carried out to safety.”
“The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom, Courage.” Thucydides, Greek Historian (460 BC – 395 BC) ensue