I attended the 40th anniversary of the United States Marine Corps memorial in Golden, Colorado today. The keynote speaker was Major General James E. Livingston, Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam, 1968.
Outnumbered 10 to 1, he and his 4th Marine Regiment saved the day at a place called Dai Do in the northern part of (then) South Vietnam. It was called the Battle of Dong Ha. He held the line, won the battle and saved countless American and South Vietnamese lives by stopping the enemy before they could get any further. And he did so despite being wounded three different times during the battle. Check out his biography and Medal of Honor citation on the web. You won’t believe the other medals he received and the number of Purple Hearts he was awarded.
When we hear such stories as that of General Livingston’s, in the back of our minds we usually wonder what we would have done in similar circumstances. Then, by extension, we wonder how we might handle a life or death situation should it come our way in the future. We never know until the “moment of truth,” a term used by Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) in Full Metal Jacket.
General Livingston remarked that the word “hero” seems to be overused these days. I would agree, but it’s not overused in his case. People make choices about their actions based on their mindset, training and predisposition. Another person in Livingston’s shoes at Dai Do could have elected to circumvent the whole thing or backed up and done nothing … and suffered the consequences. Instead, under his direction, 4th Marines “adapted and overcame,” to use a marine expression, and kicked ass in an almost unparalleled fashion.
Heroes are people who do extraordinary things of great import … and don’t really have to. Sound familiar? It’s the theme of this website. And real heroes don’t want to be referred to as such. They don’t even consider themselves heroes. Most true heroes say they were “just doing their job.” That’s Major General James E. Livingston, Medal of Honor recipient and American hero!