What Heroes Do

This Memorial Day, American Thinker honors two soldiers for their heroism.  They were quiet professionals, helping others, seemingly ordinary American warriors with an extraordinary sense of responsibility.  Heroic acts of selflessness and courage arose from a dedication to the brotherhood, where they put others' lives ahead of their own. 

In 1944, Master Sergeant Roddie Waring Edmonds was captured by the Nazis in France.  He along with other non-commissioned officers found themselves in the Ziegenhain POW camp, Stalag IXA.  When they first arrived, all were made to witness the execution of a fellow Russian POW and were told by the German commandant, Major Siegmann, that if they disobeyed orders, they would suffer the same fate.

Pastor Chris Edmonds told American Thinker, "My father and fellow American POWs suffered humiliation, were starved and beaten.  One fellow POW later commented, 'It was so bad that when we got out of that camp, we never had another bad day.'"

But it appeared things would get worse for the Jewish POWs.  As Sergeant Lester Tanner recounted, "We had heard stories of the death camps but knew of labor camps where Jewish POWs were sent and where the Jewish non-commissioned officers at Ziegenhain would have been sent.  The reason they were not sent was due to the heroism of Master Sergeant Edmonds, the highest-ranking American non-commissioned officer who defied the Nazi command."

Siegmann ordered that only the Jewish POWs were to fall out for roll call.  But Edmonds decided that all prisoners would stand in formation and issued the orders.  Tanner believes that "the Army's Rules of Conduct, his personal Code and Morals, his duty to care for the men under his command and his courage and valor in the face of the enemy at the risk of his life guided the decision.  Roddie could no more give up his men than to stop breathing."

His son through multiple research and interviews found out that the German commandant put a pistol to Edmonds's head to force him to single out the Jews.  His response: "We are all Jews here.  If you are going to shoot, you will have to shoot all of us, because we know who you are, and you'll be tried for war crimes when we win this war.  And you will pay."

The commandant backed down, and the approximately two hundred Jewish POWs were saved because Master Sgt. Edmonds, at the risk of his immediate death, defied the Germans.  Posthumously he was awarded "Righteous Among the Nations," the highest honor Israel confers on non-Jews who have risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, the first time a U.S. soldier was named.

Another unforgettable account of courageous action was when Green Beret Staff Sergeant Roy Benavidez, of the U.S. Army's 240th Assault Helicopter Company, risked his life to rescue a Special Forces team trapped behind enemy lines in 1968 Cambodia.  In a just released book, Legend, author Eric Blehm recounts the heroism of Benavidez. 

Because the North Vietnamese were using a supposedly neutral nation, Cambodia, to enter South Vietnam, the U.S. inserted and removed by helicopter 12-man special forces A teams.  All of this was strictly off the books to maintain plausible deniability.  Unfortunately, the NVA had adapted and constructed hunter teams to counteract the Special Forces teams sent in.  On May 2, the unit was placed into the heart of an NVA division, unbeknownst to the command center.

Both volunteering to serve and for this mission, without a second thought, Benavidez went into the firefight to bring out the wounded soldiers.  Upon arrival, he jumped out and into the withering enemy fire.  Despite being immediately and severely wounded, Benavidez reached the perimeter of the decimated team, provided medical care, and proceeded to organize an extraordinary defense and rescue.  During the hours-long battle, he was bayoneted, shot, and hit by grenade shrapnel more than thirty times, yet he refused to abandon his efforts until every survivor was out of harm's way.

Ingrained into his thinking by his grandfather, Benavidez had the attitude "if someone needs help, you help him."  Blehm told American Thinker, "He knowingly went into a place of chaos.  It is obvious it is not the size of the man, but the size of his heart.  The story is surreal, considering after putting the wounded on the helicopter, he went back to rescue the interpreter, while holding his own intestines.  As I recount in the book, he crawled around the seriously wounded, giving tactical orders, took charge of air support, medical aid, ammunition, and boosted the wounded morale."  He saved the lives of eight men and eventually recovered to live a productive life, telling his story to inspire children.

Both Benavidez and Edmonds typify the U.S. soldier who would do anything for his fellow brothers and sisters, including risking his own life.  Benavidez was awarded the Medal of Honor thirteen years later, while Edmonds's son is attempting to have his dad awarded it posthumously

This Memorial Day, Americans should remember those soldiers who have died.  These two men exemplified the best and the bravest.  Americans should take to heart what Benavidez said to a congressional committee: "The real heroes are the ones that gave their lives for this country, the ones that are lying disabled for life without limbs. … We didn't ask to go and fight a war for this country, and we didn't fight for luxury, money, or popularity.  We went in the defense of this country, to live free and enjoy the freedom that we have right now, all of us."

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.

This Memorial Day, American Thinker honors two soldiers for their heroism.  They were quiet professionals, helping others, seemingly ordinary American warriors with an extraordinary sense of responsibility.  Heroic acts of selflessness and courage arose from a dedication to the brotherhood, where they put others' lives ahead of their own. 

In 1944, Master Sergeant Roddie Waring Edmonds was captured by the Nazis in France.  He along with other non-commissioned officers found themselves in the Ziegenhain POW camp, Stalag IXA.  When they first arrived, all were made to witness the execution of a fellow Russian POW and were told by the German commandant, Major Siegmann, that if they disobeyed orders, they would suffer the same fate.

Pastor Chris Edmonds told American Thinker, "My father and fellow American POWs suffered humiliation, were starved and beaten.  One fellow POW later commented, 'It was so bad that when we got out of that camp, we never had another bad day.'"

But it appeared things would get worse for the Jewish POWs.  As Sergeant Lester Tanner recounted, "We had heard stories of the death camps but knew of labor camps where Jewish POWs were sent and where the Jewish non-commissioned officers at Ziegenhain would have been sent.  The reason they were not sent was due to the heroism of Master Sergeant Edmonds, the highest-ranking American non-commissioned officer who defied the Nazi command."

Siegmann ordered that only the Jewish POWs were to fall out for roll call.  But Edmonds decided that all prisoners would stand in formation and issued the orders.  Tanner believes that "the Army's Rules of Conduct, his personal Code and Morals, his duty to care for the men under his command and his courage and valor in the face of the enemy at the risk of his life guided the decision.  Roddie could no more give up his men than to stop breathing."

His son through multiple research and interviews found out that the German commandant put a pistol to Edmonds's head to force him to single out the Jews.  His response: "We are all Jews here.  If you are going to shoot, you will have to shoot all of us, because we know who you are, and you'll be tried for war crimes when we win this war.  And you will pay."

The commandant backed down, and the approximately two hundred Jewish POWs were saved because Master Sgt. Edmonds, at the risk of his immediate death, defied the Germans.  Posthumously he was awarded "Righteous Among the Nations," the highest honor Israel confers on non-Jews who have risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, the first time a U.S. soldier was named.

Another unforgettable account of courageous action was when Green Beret Staff Sergeant Roy Benavidez, of the U.S. Army's 240th Assault Helicopter Company, risked his life to rescue a Special Forces team trapped behind enemy lines in 1968 Cambodia.  In a just released book, Legend, author Eric Blehm recounts the heroism of Benavidez. 

Because the North Vietnamese were using a supposedly neutral nation, Cambodia, to enter South Vietnam, the U.S. inserted and removed by helicopter 12-man special forces A teams.  All of this was strictly off the books to maintain plausible deniability.  Unfortunately, the NVA had adapted and constructed hunter teams to counteract the Special Forces teams sent in.  On May 2, the unit was placed into the heart of an NVA division, unbeknownst to the command center.

Both volunteering to serve and for this mission, without a second thought, Benavidez went into the firefight to bring out the wounded soldiers.  Upon arrival, he jumped out and into the withering enemy fire.  Despite being immediately and severely wounded, Benavidez reached the perimeter of the decimated team, provided medical care, and proceeded to organize an extraordinary defense and rescue.  During the hours-long battle, he was bayoneted, shot, and hit by grenade shrapnel more than thirty times, yet he refused to abandon his efforts until every survivor was out of harm's way.

Ingrained into his thinking by his grandfather, Benavidez had the attitude "if someone needs help, you help him."  Blehm told American Thinker, "He knowingly went into a place of chaos.  It is obvious it is not the size of the man, but the size of his heart.  The story is surreal, considering after putting the wounded on the helicopter, he went back to rescue the interpreter, while holding his own intestines.  As I recount in the book, he crawled around the seriously wounded, giving tactical orders, took charge of air support, medical aid, ammunition, and boosted the wounded morale."  He saved the lives of eight men and eventually recovered to live a productive life, telling his story to inspire children.

Both Benavidez and Edmonds typify the U.S. soldier who would do anything for his fellow brothers and sisters, including risking his own life.  Benavidez was awarded the Medal of Honor thirteen years later, while Edmonds's son is attempting to have his dad awarded it posthumously

This Memorial Day, Americans should remember those soldiers who have died.  These two men exemplified the best and the bravest.  Americans should take to heart what Benavidez said to a congressional committee: "The real heroes are the ones that gave their lives for this country, the ones that are lying disabled for life without limbs. … We didn't ask to go and fight a war for this country, and we didn't fight for luxury, money, or popularity.  We went in the defense of this country, to live free and enjoy the freedom that we have right now, all of us."

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.