Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Myth of American Heroism 

How bizarre is it when the number two link on Google for Brian Chontosh, a bona fide war hero and recipient of the Navy Cross, goes to a site devoted to "debunking" urban myths?

Is the idea that a Marine officer could perform acts of heroism so outlandish that it requires debunking? If so, there's little doubt why so many Americans might doubt such tales. Every day we're force fed a distorted, dishonest narrative that magnifies every misdeed and sweeps acts of heroism under the rug. This, we are given to understand, is "journalistic objectivity" in action:
The media has an unfortunate history of wrongly pushing the narrative that military service is somehow a horror-filled dehumanizing experience. In 2007, The New York Times magazine ran a 10,000 word cover story about a Navy veteran who claimed she had been raped twice while serving, suffered a brain injury as the result of an IED explosion in Iraq, and was otherwise unable to cope with life due to the stress. It turns out the subject of the story had never been to Iraq and her story was otherwise fabricated, and the Times magazine didn't do any real due diligence in fact checking the woman's claims. In 2008, The New York Times again ran a sensational report claiming military service was turning soldiers into murderers -- returning vets had committed or were charged with 121 murders in the United States since the current wars began. The New York Times did not mention that while this statistic may seem shocking, returning vets were actually committing murder at a rate five times less than the general population.

That the elite media will exercise extreme caution reporting Islamic terrorist attacks, but smear the military as a matter of course is awfully telling. When the Los Angeles Times report was shown to be way off-base, the paper simply disappeared the account.

To the media, Brian Chontosh's heroics are not something to be proud of, but something shameful. But not all journalists are willing to see these inspiring stories flushed down the memory hole:

... Brian Chontosh gave the order to attack. He told his driver to floor the humvee directly at the machine gun emplacement that was firing at them. And he had the guy on top with the .50 cal unload on them.

Within moments there were Iraqis slumped across the machine gun and Chontosh was still advancing, ordering his driver now to take the humvee directly into the Iraqi trench that was attacking his Marines. Over into the battlement the humvee went and out the door Brian Chontosh bailed, carrying an M16 and a Beretta and 228 years of Marine Corps pride.

And he ran down the trench.

With its mortars and riflemen, machineguns and grenadiers.

And he killed them all.

He fought with the M16 until it was out of ammo. Then he fought with the Beretta until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up a dead man’s AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up another dead man’s AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo.

At one point he even fired a discarded Iraqi RPG into an enemy cluster, sending attackers flying with its grenade explosion.

When he was done Brian Chontosh had cleared 200 yards of entrenched Iraqis from his platoon’s flank. He had killed more than 20 and wounded at least as many more.

Back in 2005 I conducted a little thought experiment. I went to America's leading newspapers and searched on the names of American heroes. What I found out won't surprise you if you've been paying attention. Mentions of Cindy Sheehan were thick upon the ground. Mentions of American heroes? Not so much:
Sgt. Rafael Peralta didn't have to become a United States Marine. And he didn't have to go to war. That's just the kind of man he was.

He joined the Marine Corps the day after he received his green card. On the walls of his bedroom, there were only three items: the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and his boot camp graduation certificate. You can see the mind of this hero in his letters he diligently wrote home to his younger brother and sister. Before he left America, he wrote his 14-year old brother Ricardo,
"be proud of me, bro...and be proud of being an American."

Ricardo and his sister would receive another letter from their brother:

"I was just doing my homework and there was a knock on the door," said Ricardo Peralta, 14. "The moment I saw them, I knew."

In his letter to Ricardo, Rafael said he was doing something he had always wanted to do. He asked Ricardo to be proud of him because the Marines were making history in Iraq.

Rafael had been killed during an assault on Fallujah.

His body took most of the blast. One Marine was seriously injured, but the rest sustained only minor shrapnel wounds. Cpl. Brannon Dyer told a reporter from the Army Times, "He saved half my fire team."

Most Americans have never heard of Rafael Peralta, and they never will.

In past wars, he would have been a hero. His name would have been a household word, his deeds an inspiration to small boys, their eyes growing wide with amazement at his sacrifice. The chests of old men would have puffed out in pride. Crusty veterans would have stood a bit taller, remembering their own service. Women would have grown misty-eyed, and young girls would have laid flowers on his grave, wiping away a tear as they dreamed of handsome heroes.

But they will never hear of him - his voice has been silenced. The mainstream media does not consider the sacrifices of men like Sgt. Rafael Peralta "newsworthy". The media do not seem interested in talking to Sgt. Peralta's family. Instead, we get to hear about Cindy Sheehan all day, every day.

When the shootings at Fort Hood first hit the airwaves, how many news anchors invoked the grim specter of a PTSD addled combat vet run amok? Even when the facts began to roll in, the press were reluctant to abandon the narrative. Amazingly, it was revealed that PTSD is contagious! Like swine flu, one can get it simply by talking to a combat veteran.

Those who treat the mentally wounded, including doctors such as Hasan, are not immune from the symptoms. It is not uncommon for therapists who treat patients for post-traumatic stress disorder to experience some symptoms vicariously after hearing account after account of the horrors of the battlefield.

Hasan was a psychiatry intern at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from June 2003 to July 2009, Army officials said. In that position, he probably treated soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

With their hatred of the military and everything associated with it, the mainstream media rarely miss a chance to remind us that there are dangerous psychopaths lurking in our midst. At any moment one of these ticking time bombs could explode, taking us down with him. What the media are less willing to acknowledge is that both combat and military experience are a double-edged sword. They want you to see veterans as combat addled freaks, not brave defenders of our way of life. They focus on the cloud, and not the silver lining:
Research appears to show that many people can emerge from traumatic experiences with greater self-confidence, a keener sense of compassion and appreciation for life, says Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, director of the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. Cornum and other experts call this concept post-traumatic growth.

Although the military focuses attention on troops who develop mental health conditions in combat, Cornum says, the majority of war veterans do not suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other problems.

“We never ask if anybody had some positive outcomes. We only ask about this laundry list of illnesses,” says Cornum, referring to a battery of health questions soldiers face when they leave the combat zone.

Thus it is left up to us to keep the memory of American heroism green. The media can be counted upon to bombard us with tales of tragedy, death, and despair. The rest of the story - the incredible heroism, healing, and redemption that springs from the heartbreak of war, tends to get lost by the wayside.

The truth is that war is a terrible thing. It breaks some of us beyond repair. But hardships can make us better men and women. Sometimes it takes tragedy to bring out the shining strength of the human spirit. In a world where bad things happen on a daily basis, that's a message we need to hear about, too. What a shame that most of the press don't agree.

Won't you look deep inside your heart and open your wallet to help wounded vets?

Not because they are pitiful victims. But because with the knowledge that America believes in them, there is nothing these amazing men and women cannot overcome.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 07, 03:07:00 PM:

Amazingly, it was revealed that PTSD is contagious

Maybe this explains why otherwise normal people, when they get to congress or the media, turn into complete morons, its an occupational hazard from being placed in that environment.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 07, 07:15:00 PM:

Amazing post.

Amazing men and women who serve and sacrifice.

I am humbled in the presence of greatness.  

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