by James Glaser
September 26, 2017
A few weeks ago I got an email from our local paper wanting a picture of me and a little bio about what branch of the service I served in.
Hometown Hero Story
Hi there Mr. Glaser,
I'm Rick Patrick, a reporter with Greene Publishing here in Madison. We do a weekly feature every Friday that spotlights local veterans. We would like to feature you in an upcoming issue. I tried calling your cell phone, but didn't get through. If you could please give me some information about your military service such as what branch, where you went to basic training, how long you were in the military, some of the place at which you were stationed, any special military recognition you received, what you feel you gained from your military experience, etc. Also if you are married, have family etc., I'd like to include that as well. If you have a photograph (either current or if you have a photo in military uniform, that's even better!) please send that as well.
Thank you for your time, and thank you for your service.
I thought about it, but I couldn’t do it. I’m not a hero. So here is the letter I wrote back to that reporter.
I got your email about the Home Town Hero Story. I really can’t do that, as I’m not a hero. Yes, I am a combat veteran, but I do not believe that makes me a hero. When I look up what a hero is, this is what I find. “A person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character: He became a local hero when he saved the drowning child.”
It really does not matter why I joined the United States Marine Corps. What matters is what I did while in the Marines. I don’t know if you or your readers know, but in Boot Camp, I yelled “KILL!” at least 500 times. Actually, we screamed it. Marines are not trained to save lives. Marines are trained to take lives. I never have thought of killing people as a heroic act.
However, Rick, I can tell you about a couple of heroes I know. I should say I knew. I was new in the country, (Vietnam) and one of my first jobs was to bring some radios from Signal Hill, just above LZ Stud, up highway 9 from The Rock Pile. I had to get them down to Phu bi for repair. I was hitchhiking there by helicopter. Sometimes you had to take a chopper that wasn’t going where you wanted to go, but would get you closer, and this was one of those times. We were on a Huey, and we got diverted to a small LZ that was under fire. Fortunately, there were a couple of Marines with us who had been in country a long time and knew what to do. So, when we touched down they had us head right, to a tree line where the defenders were (other Marines), and the two of them went left, to lay down covering fire so we could get away from the chopper which had become the target of choice for every enemy soldier in the area. I jumped off with two other Marines and headed right like they said, and at that same time other Marines were loading a couple of badly wounded guys in the chopper from the other side. The chopper took off leaving those two guys covering for us there. They died, in saving my life. They were heroes.
Fighting in a war for your country could make you patriotic, but to be a hero, I believe you have to step above that level most combat veterans achieve. Navy Corpsman and Army Medics seem to do that as a common practice, but for me, going to war, even getting some shiny medals does not qualify me as a hero. So I’ll pass on being in one of your stories.