Thursday, October 7, 2010

Inpired by Those Who Do the Least

The horrors of war are often unimaginable to everyday citizens, and we should be so grateful. I can’t imagine what it would be like to look out my window and see bombs exploding and hear the constant exchanges of gunfire off in the distance. I am so thankful for the benefit of sleeping without nightmares and for living a relatively peaceful existence. While our country is not without violence, we do not have to climb over dead bodies to get to the grocery store. I know I have our military to thank for that protection. The men and women who leave their homes, their families and put their lives on the line to keep us safe.

Sal Giunta is only 25 years old, but he has more courage than most Americans his age. The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded and is most often bestowed posthumously. This soldier lives with the guilt of surviving and being recognized for his efforts even though his buddies died. Remember that for every act of bravery recognized, there are countless others which are not.
As I read this story I am reminded of my grandfather and his memories of war. His name was William Gaskill and he flew P-38’s in WWII. The worst day of his life took place on Christmas Eve 1944 over the north coast of New Guinea.
“By then his engine was on fire. From the time the shell hit his plane, he had about 90 seconds to live. He couldn’t bail out because every time he turned loose of the controls, the plane would try to auger into the ocean. He was too low to bail out. The longer he waited to water land the less his chances of survival; as the fire was burning explosively. If he got out too quickly, he would not be far enough from shore and enemy would be out there in their motor launches to get him. I could only hold them off so long until I ran out of gas. Rescue planes were too far away. We lost radio communication with each other, but I flew right beside him for as long as I could. We both felt so helpless. I am sure we must have prayed. His plane got slower and slower until my plane was trying to stall. I pulled away in the final seconds. The reality of war became very plain to us. His boom was burning badly, also his gas tank - then the plane started getting out of control. He leveled it out several times, the last time he leveled it out it stalled and hit the water - exploded and burned. I stayed until the fire died away - nothing remained above the water….I am still very sad and blue about it all. (We had flown together nearly 10 months) Especially so because I was the flight leader. The best of wing men and a wonderful fellow. He was older than I, married and had a little girl.”
This excerpt was taken out of his book Fighter Pilot. I happened to hear this story again one year when I asked him what his most memorable Christmas Day was. His voice still cracked as he recounted that moment 60 years before on that very day. I could feel his pain as he relived it again so I may know the great sacrifices made to by those who served our country. My grandfather inspired his children and grandchildren to become people with honor and integrity. He inspired my brother to become the C-130 pilot he is today. I hope Sal is able to find peace in his survival and continue to live to share his story with future generations. Thank you to every soldier, current or past, for serving our country. Feel peace in what you do to help a fellow soldier, even if all you can do is be there for them as they take their last breath.
Read the Full Story: Medal of Honor Recipient Sal Giunta