Remembering Our Heroes

I’d like you to meet U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Jeremiah Workman.  In 2004, Workman was serving as a squad leader at Camp Pendleton, California when he was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq.   One day, while out on patrol, his team was ambushed, trapping many of his men in a building overrun by insurgents.  Battling heavy enemy fire, Workman bravely laid down enough cover fire to allow many of the isolated Marines to escape. Workman then lead another group to provide cover fire for an attack into the building to rescue other trapped Marines, continuing to fire even after receiving several shrapnel wounds to his arms and legs and after a grenade exploded in front of him.  After this second rescue attack, Workman again rallied his team for a final blitz in to clear the
building of insurgents and rescue the remaining Marines.

In all, Workma n’s leadership helped save 17 of the 20 Marines trapped inside the building, while eliminating 24 insurgents.  For his extraordinary heroism, Jeremiah Workman received the Navy Cross (the Armed Forces’ second highest medal) and a Purple Heart.

It has become axiomatic that the media tend to filter out the good news, preferring the boosts in ratings and readership that accompany catastrophe and scandal.  This is especially true with the war in Iraq, where criticisms of military misconduct at places like Abu Ghraib, Haditha and at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. are presented
almost daily.  But Iraq offers positive stories too — authentic acts of military heroism that go unreported by the media and, thus, unnoticed by most Americans.   

Take Army Sergeant 1st Class Curtis Haines, who received the Medal of Bravery for diving into a burning vehicle to extract an Iraqi citizen seriously injured and on fire after a car bomb exploded at a military checkpoint.  Haines pulled the civilian out of the raging fire and carried him 50 yards to safety before administering medical aid, saving
the man’s life. 

Or take Marine Corporal Jason Dunham, who received the Medal of Honor (the Armed Forces highest award) posthumously in January.  In a moving ceremony at the White House, President Bush recounted Dunham’s heroics, which included jumping on a grenade to save the lives of two of his men, using his helmet and body to absorb the blow that killed him. 

There are literally thousands more stories of ordinary Americans performing extraordinary acts of selfless bravery on battlefields across the globe.  While their stories are different, these soldiers share two things:  a singular devotion to the idea that freedom must prevail and the courage to subordinate themselves to do wha t it takes to achieve that end. 

Sadly, our military heroes have one more thing in common:  anonymity. The mainstream media would have us believe we are engaged in a war without heroes.  So far the only names the media trumpet are those whose actions speak to the alleged malfeasance of the American military, like Lynndie England and those involved in the boorishness at Abu Ghraib. But Workman, Haines and Dunham deserve to be held up as the heroes they are.  While it is a sign of America’s goodness that we expose and denounce abuse by our troops – for while winning this war will not be easy, we guarantee our defeat by stooping to the level of our enemy – what does it say about our nation that we refuse to recognize those whohave performed genuine acts of heroism?

Despite the lack of positive media attention, the American Armed Forces continue to be highly regarded by the people they protect.&n bsp; A recent Gallup poll found 73% of respondents said they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the military, surpassing by fifteen percent the next highest institutions, the police and organized religion.  In contrast, public trust in television news and newspapers has reached an all-time low of 28 percent. 

An April Pew poll similarly found favorable views of the military outnumbered negative ones by more than four to one (77 percent to 17 percent).

It’s a curious dynamic:  Opinion polls simultaneously show tumbling public confidence in the war effort, scant trust of the mainstream media’s ability to report the news fairly and strong general approval of our military.  Perhaps most tellingly, military recruiting remains strong, and applications to our military academies have even increased of late. West Point, for example, reported a 14 percent increase in applications last year.

Upon receiving the Navy Cross Medal, Sergeant Workman, with the humility characteristic of a Marine, told the Armed Forces Press Service, "The first thing I thought about was all the Marines we lost over there.  I don’t look at myself as being any different.  I did what any other Marine would have done.  There are thousands of other Marines over there (in the Middle East) that deserve to be awarded, too."  Clearly, despite the consistent flow of bad news out of Iraq, and the paucity of good news, America is still able to produce young men and women who believe that freedom is always worth the sacrifice. 

In his speeches, President Bush consistently links ultimate triumph in Iraq to one thing:  American resolve.  On Memorial Day, as America honors its heroes of yore, let us not forget our heroes of today, without whose courage and resolve victory would be impossible.