On Wednesday, March 25th, America honored recipients of our highest military award: the Medal of Honor. National Medal of Honor (MoH) Day was established as an honorable remembrance of those who, in the words of all MoH citations, served ‘above and beyond the call of duty’. Their stories and backgrounds run the gambit of military conflicts throughout our history, but they all share one common element: they represent the prevailing power of the American fighting spirit.
It was this American fighting spirit that MoH recipient Admiral James Stockdale embodied to persevere through over seven years as a Vietnamese Prisoner of War. Withstanding years of torture and isolation without submitting to the enemy, Stockdale mutilated his own face to prevent his captors from forcibly using him in propaganda material. When this failed to stop them, he attempted suicide to demonstrate the resolve and durability of the American prisoners’ resistance. Through his selfless personification of the American fighting spirit, he secured the safety of his fellow prisoners and the torturing of prisoners at his camp eventually stopped.
This same spirit transcended generations of American warriors and was imbued in MoH recipient Lance Corporal Kyle Carpenter who, in 2010, threw himself onto an enemy grenade to save his fellow Marine. Defying all medical odds, Lance Corporal Carpenter survived the incident. Surviving injuries to his face and arm including the loss of his right eye, Carpenter became the eighth living American to receive a Medal of Honor during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When asked about the incident and how it affected his life afterward, Carpenter said, “The enemy killed me. I came back, ran a marathon, completed a mud run and jumped from a plane. I won’t ever quit. I am just getting started.” Lance Corporal Carpenter echoes the American fighting spirit even to this day, a decade after his injuries were sustained.
Advertisements - Click the Speaker Icon for Audio
So what do we have to learn from these tales of heroism and the American fighting spirit as we remember America’s heroes? I submit to readers that we must allow ourselves to call upon our own fighting spirit to get through these challenging times. This does not mean denying the severity or seriousness with which we should pursue solutions for the COVID-19 virus; on the contrary, we should embrace the challenge that is posed, and accept it readily as an opportunity to come together and fight. In the words of Admiral Stockdale, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.” We must confront the brutal facts of this virus while maintaining our resolve to prevail. America will bring every force at our disposal to bear, just as we have in struggles before, and we will prevail. This is the power of the indomitable American fighting spirit.