We Owe Them Everything

I regularly read the Washington Post and when I do I always read the obituaries in the paper. Anyone who had the remotest connection to the Washington area appears in the Posts’ obituaries. They always have the obituaries of Medal of Honor recipients. Last week I read the obituary of one Barney F. Hanjiro, PFC, U.S. Army. Private Hanjiro was a 19-year old when his actions in October 1944 earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. Here is his citation:

Private Barney F. Hajiro distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 19, 22, and 29 October 1944, in the vicinity of Bruyeres and Biffontaine, eastern France. Private Hajiro, while acting as a sentry on top of an embankment on 19 October 1944, in the vicinity of Bruyeres, France, rendered assistance to allied troops attacking a house 200 yards away by exposing himself to enemy fire and directing fire at an enemy strong point. He assisted the unit on his right by firing his automatic rifle and killing or wounding two enemy snipers. On 22 October 1944, he and one comrade took up an outpost security position about 50 yards to the right front of their platoon, concealed themselves, and ambushed an 18-man, heavily armed, enemy patrol, killing two, wounding one, and taking the remainder as prisoners. On 29 October 1944, in a wooded area in the vicinity of Biffontaine, France, Private Hajiro initiated an attack up the slope of a hill referred to as “Suicide Hill” by running forward approximately 100 yards under fire. He then advanced ahead of his comrades about 10 yards, drawing fire and spotting camouflaged machine gun nests. He fearlessly met fire with fire and single-handedly destroyed two machine gun nests and killed two enemy snipers. As a result of Private Hajiro’s heroic actions, the attack was successful. Private Hajiro’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit, and the United States Army.

Even in the neutral description of the citation you can feel the bravery of this young man. He was a native Japanese-American from Hawaii who joined the military to fight for his country even though many of his fellow Japanese-Americans were incarcerated in concentration camps. The further irony is that the operation that that his unit was conducting was to rescue the famed “Lost Battalion” of the Texas division, essentially an all-white unit.

Occasionally, I will peruse the list of Medal of Honor winners when one comes up in the news. It is a fraternity of extraordinary courage and daring. We need to remember that all veterans and serving members of the Armed Forces are heroes. I know a young man here in Central Virginia who had two tours in Iraq and served as a Marine engineer most notably at the Battle of Fallujah. His two younger brothers were also Marine engineers serving in Iraq. They all joined a reserve unit and went willingly. Thankfully, they all returned home unharmed.

Charlottesville, Virginia is the home of several traumatic head injury treatment centers. Unfortunately, business has been brisk. Many of our soldiers have suffered traumatic brain injuries, particularly due to IED attacks. We’ve also had men and women lose arms and legs. In past wars many of these people died but the level of medical treatment is such that today most will survive. As a country we owe them the very best care and rehabilitation available.

The next time you see someone wearing a veteran’s cap or is otherwise identified as a veteran or a serving member of the military thank them for their service to our country. You see, we owe them everything. We owe them our safety, our freedom, everything that is the United States of America, including our very existence as a nation.

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