Saturday, January 07, 2006

Death of a Hero

In a non-descript veterans hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana, a true American hero died yesterday at the age of 62. He gained hero status long after his act of courage saved the lives of countless innocent people during wartime in a land far, far away. Some people called him a traitor...or worse. Some people claimed he helped to undermine a nation's war effort. Some people claimed he should go to prison. Some even thought he should be shot.

As our nation fights another war in a land far, far away, all of us should take time to remember the contribution to humanity made by a selfless soldier who put his own life in jeopardy in order to do the right thing.

The man to whom I refer is Hugh Thompson Jr. Along with his helicopter crew chief and his door gunner, Lt. Thompson put his chopper down in the line of fire to stop a massacre of innocent Vietnamese civilians by U.S. forces at My Lai in 1968.

Early in the morning of March 16, 1968, Thompson, door-gunner Lawrence Colburn and crew chief Glenn Andreotta came upon U.S. ground troops killing Vietnamese civilians in and around the village of My Lai.

They landed the helicopter in the line of fire between American troops and fleeing Vietnamese civilians and pointed their own guns at the U.S. soldiers to prevent more killings.

Colburn and Andreotta had provided cover for Thompson as he went forward to confront the leader of the U.S. forces. Thompson later coaxed civilians out of a bunker so they could be evacuated, and then landed his helicopter again to pick up a wounded child they transported to a hospital. Their efforts led to the cease-fire order at My Lai.

As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh said, Thompson was "one of the good guys. You can't imagine what courage it took to do what he did."

Lt. Thompson knew what his duty was in Vietnam, but he also knew when something wasn't right. And what was happening at My Lai in 1968 most definitely wasn't right. Thankfully, Thompson had the courage to do something about it. And for that, we all should commemorate his legacy as an American hero who wasn't willing to let his fellow soldiers commit genocide in the name of their country.

Lt. Thompson brings to mind current-day heroes who are unwilling to let their fellow Americans get away with murder, figuratively speaking. When something isn't right, we need to stand up and find a way to stop it.

Thank you for your service, your conscience and your courage, Lt. Thompson. You will be missed, but your legacy will live on. RIP.


At 2:39 PM, Blogger Marcus said...

Lt. Thompson, I salute you.


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