View Full Version : Courage of Another Quality

06-09-04, 07:26 AM

Courage of Another Quality

By Paul Connors

Courage is a word that is often abused. Itís probably as abused and misused as often as that other word, love. But courage and the will to do whatís right (in all things) is what this article is about.

As students of military affairs know, courage is often exemplified by battlefield heroics and is recognized by the awarding of medals that often categorize the degrees of courage shown by the recipient. In each of the nations of the Western world, supreme sacrifice and courage are recognized with an award that is classified as that nationís highest award for valor on the battlefield.

The two nations with the largest military contingents currently engaged in operations in Iraq are also the two whose armed forces have long been recognized for their military prowess, battlefield successes, individual fortitude and sacrifice and the quality of their weaponry and technology.

The two countries I am speaking of are the United States and the United Kingdom. Both have long been known for producing heroic leaders, as well as individual soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have shown their mettle while others remained at home. The stories of these two countriesí national heroes are legion and books have been filled with the true life stories of recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service, Navy and Air Force Crosses and the lesser awards that follow in train. These stories were the tales of heroism that many boys read while growing up and the feats contained within them often inspire those boys to military service as they grow older.

There is nothing wrong with telling these stories, because in all honesty, they need to be told. Unfortunately for members of todayís U.S. and British armed forces, each nationís mainstream news media has of late chosen to ignore the good and positive that has resulted from their sacrifice and instead, has focused on the negatives, like the negative conduct of a few miscreant military policemen at Abu Ghraib prison.

The media all over the world, much of it in countries with agendas hostile to the best interests of the United States, have also chosen to highlight those few negatives they have found while completly ignoring the positive results brought about by the intervention of the United States, the United Kingdom and other coalition partner nations.

As Contributing Editor Lt. Col. Matthew Dodd wrote in his current article for DefenseWatch (ďA Marineís Marine,Ē June 3, 2004), he eloquently calls attention to the valor and service of the three U.S. Marines who have been awarded the Navy Cross since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This week's installment (there will be three) addresses the incredible bravery and leadership shown by 1st Lt. Brian Chontosh, USMC. Sadly, it seems that only DefenseWatch and perhaps a few scattered emails among those who follow military affairs have reported on Lt. Chontosh's award.

During World War II, the press, not quite so hostile to the government as the major media outlets are today, routinely reported the awards of major decorations. After all, it was Life magazine that put Audie Murphy on its cover and made him famous in every American household.

With that in mind, I want to explore the concept of courage.

Courage truly is about more than battlefield heroics. Perhaps its most noble trait is the realization that one must stand up for what it is truly right, honest and decent. One must have the integrity to place the greater good before oneís own self-interests. In the case of the United States, its people and its armed forces, that means placing the nation first, while leaving all of the petty squabbling at the outer door, where it belongs.

If there is one thing that I have learned during my tenure writing for DefenseWatch is that courage is not always a tangible thing; its traits are not always revealed or visible to the naked eye. Despite the fact that all of us sit behind a keyboard, while others do the fighting, bleeding and dying for us, I never cease to be amazed at the quality of the people this nation sends forth to do its national bidding. Not all of them will earn the Navy Cross like Lt. Chontosh, but those that wear the uniform, especially in these trying times, have continued to show both the moral and physical courage that sets them apart from their more complacent civilian counterparts.

Every day, DefenseWatch writers receive emails from our readers who call to our attention the abuses, foul-ups, scandals and other stories that leave the editors wondering which story to cover first. Despite that reality, we also hear the stories of the Brian Chontoshs of the world who inevitably make us all proud. That for me, is what makes all the rest worthwhile.

Do not be taken in by all the hype you see on the networks and cable news talk shows. Be skeptical of what you read in mainstream newspapers. Remember instead, the daily courage of the men and women of the U.S. armed forces and its coalition allies who wake up every day in a land where most of the people are hostile and want to do them harm. Remember these men and women in desert camouflage, they are the ones who every day display the courage to do their jobs even when others would denigrate them for doing so.

Courage is not just about getting a ribbon and a medal pinned on you by a general, admiral or politician. Itís about service, integrity, commitment and the fortitude to carry on despite the obstacles placed in oneís path.

I have no doubt that the Marines in Lt. Brian Chontoshís platoon are aware of his courageous acts as he did what he thought necessary to ensure their safety and complete their assigned mission. Lt. Col Dodd will be bringing you the details of the two other Marines who have also received the Navy Cross since March 2003. As you read about them, also remember the courage of the thousands of others who have left home and family so that the rest of us wouldnít have to.

They are the men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard and their reserve components. Their dedication, commitment, valor and love of country need to recognized and remembered by the rest of us, especially when so many others would seek to denigrate or even undo all they have accomplished.

Paul Connors is a Senior Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at paulconnors@hotmail.com. © 2004 Paul Connors. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.