Gallantry

Charlotte Hays | Posted on 03/10/10

Ashcroft above all admires "what man can do under certain circumstances, whether hot or cold courage: the point where a hand-grenade is about to go off, and one man jumps on it to smother it."

The Washington Post recently had a story about Salvation Army workers who, going through a box of donated material, found the citation for a Purple Heart. Who would throw something like this away? Two Salvation Army volunteers made it their job to reunite the citation and its medal-and the family of the man who had won the Purple Heart, Sgt. Richard E. Owen.

They succeeded and along the way learned a lot about Richard E. Owen, a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division, a member of Easy Company, which became historian Stephen Ambrose's "Band of Brothers." Owen was killed on D-Day in the Allied assault on Normandy. The Post reported: "An eyewitness wrote that the plane was shot clean through with anti-aircraft tracers, climbed steeply in an attempt to land and instead hit a hedgerow and exploded, instantly killing everyone on board. The plane would burn for three days."

Courage is an issue I've thought a lot about since editing an issue of In Character devoted to that virtue. We never know if we'll be courageous when the time comes or if we'll run. The medal symbolized that mysterious virtue. A piece in the (U.K) Spectator had an interesting piece on collectors of military medals. It included an observation about courage:

The desire to own precious relics of British military heritage is hardly unique. Collectors come in all shapes and guises. Curiously, the richer and more driven the collector, the less likely he or she is to see an acquisition as a straight investment. Ashcroft above all admires ‘what man can do under certain circumstances, whether hot or cold courage: the point where a hand-grenade is about to go off, and one man jumps on it to smother it'.

I'm glad the Purple Heart was reunited with somebody who remembered Sgt. Owens, who died so gallantly.

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