Thursday, March 8, 2012

Heroes all around us

Around here, you read about them nearly every day.
Whether it's a newspaper item describing another incident of gallantry in action overseas, or a heartwarming, hand-painted welcome home message on a bedsheet hung from the fence that circles the base, there always seems to be some reminder of the heroes who are our neighbors in our part-time coastal Carolina home.
Living just down the beach from Camp Lejeune, we've become well aware of both the history and the ongoing acts of heroism that are performed by the Marines who have trained at the base since it was established in 1941
But it took an evening out to discover an interesting, important addition to the story.
We promised ourselves that, on this visit to the southern shores, we'd make a better effort to get to know more people in the community around us. Heretofore, our main local acquaintances have been members of our own family, plus a few dear Galva-area friends and others who live within a couple of hours.
So we've paid attention to some of the events going on around us, and attended a few, including some community theatre and a Fat Tuesday Party sponsored by the local Catholic community. Just a couple of weekends ago, a bit of dumb luck resulted in me winning a pair of tickets to a dinner and variety show at the local USO.
That's right, the USO. As in old movies, Bob Hope, Betty Grable and pretty girls handing out doughnuts to lonely servicemen. And, in fact, it still is sort of that kind of place, complete with big, comfortable leather furniture, pool tables, a snack bar and a large, auditorium-style room where that evening's program--a comedy/variety show called "Luv that Doc"--was going to take place. We were greeted by a pair of young seamen, who looked to be about fifteen years old, according to a lady at a neighboring table. Turns out, they were fledgling Navy Corpsmen.
Because, while we didn't know it until we got there, the "Doc" that was being "Luved" referred to corpsmen, with the event sponsored by The Corpsman Memorial Foundation, a group dedicated to creating a national memorial to those brave medics who have been a part of the Navy and the Marine Corps since their inception in 1898. In fact, Navy Corpsmen have won a higher ratio of Congressional Medals of Honor than any other service, which is well in keeping with their heroic, selfless mission.
It was pretty darn inspiring to hear about those heroes. Especially since I knew one.
The late James Martin of Galva was a World War II Navy Corpsman whose valor under fire made him a recipient of the Silver Star, one of our nation's highest awards for gallantry in action. I knew Jim well, but I didn't know anything about his exploits and well-deserved award until a column by the Star Courier's Dave Clarke shared the story much later in Jim's life.
It was an amazing story of bravery and determination.
Even then, it was tough to get him to talk about it, though he was undoubtedly proud of his service to our country.
But that's usually how heroes are, so I contented myself with the knowledge that I knew a real one.
I thought about Jim as we enjoyed the good company, good food and an evening of fun, lively entertainment.
And I thought of him, too, as we were reminded of the many brave acts performed by he and his comrades.
I was glad we were there. I was glad I knew Jim and his story.
So, here's to all those heroes.
And here's to you, Jim.

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