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Thursday, June 17, 2004

His Brothers, Our Heros

On the 60th anniversary of D-Day, reader Cartagia's dad presented a speech at Operation: God Bless America XIV. Chief Warrant Officer 4 Douglas Tait (Ret) spoke of heroism, sacrifice, and the dubious intentions of an increasingly slanted media. What follows is the text of his speech, whole and unedited.


My fellow veterans and brothers; It is indeed an honor and a very special privilege to be here today to pay tribute to you who have served and sacrificed for our blessed nation - not forgetting those who continue to sacrifice in the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert of Iraq and throughout the world.

The patriotism, and vitality of America’s veterans is a quality that sadly is not always seen among the general population, however patriotism is very evident here among this group who have come to honor you today.

Speaking of vitality let me tell you an example of one veteran’s vitality. A few nights ago two seasoned WWII vets were in the day room reminiscing about the liberation of Paris and all the young Mademoiselles that befriended them in the rescued city. One old-timer looked at his friend and said; "Charlie can you remember the last time you had sex?" Charlie thought for a moment and said, "Well it was around 1957". "1957!" Replied his friend; "Do you know how long ago that was?" Charlie just grinned at his buddy and said, "Hell, that wasn’t so long ago" - and looked at his watch and said, "It’s only 2030 now!" …………. Now that’s vitality!

I am not here today as some war hero, or famous person. All I did was leave my burning helicopter in the jungle of Vietnam one night, and was lucky enough to survive the experience. You know, they say a good landing is one you can walk away from, and a great landing is when you can use the aircraft again. Well I did neither, and I address you today, as simply a fellow citizen and veteran and bring you a message of profound thanks and gratitude for your service to our great nation.

We are here today to pay tribute to you, but the fact is each of you is a tribute - a living example - of that which has made this country great. Citizens who were willing to answer a call to duty and who were willing to sacrifice for the greater good. Many of us cannot imagine what each of you has lived through or the memories that you carry, be they of Normandy, the Argonne Forest, Iwo Jima, Midway, the Chosin Reservoir, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq or any other military action undertaken by the United States Armed Forces.

But we can all imagine how different life in this country might have been had each of you, and all our veterans, not chosen to serve to protect our great nation. Your honor as veterans is great, our debt to you is greater, and our nation, as a result of your efforts, is greater still.

The title of veteran is a term deserving of great respect in America. All who served, whether for a few years or for many, have put our nation's needs above their own. All stood ready, if the order came, to risk everything for their country's cause. Our wars have taken from us some of our finest citizens, and left many with scars that will never heal.

Some may ask "What is the price of freedom?". My answer is: It is the most costly thing in the world. And freedom is never paid for in one lump sum. Installments come due in every generation. All any of us can do is offer the generation that follows an opportunity for freedom. This you have done.

And despite the much-reported failures of a few, today's military is acting in the finest traditions of the veterans who came before them. They are showing bravery in the face of ruthless and merciless enemies thousands of miles away in the heart and center of their power, so that we do not face those enemies in the heart of America.

Today’s deadly threats of tyranny against our liberty come from rogue powers and stateless networks of extremists who have nothing but contempt for the sanctity of human life and for the principles civilized people hold dear. And one again our uniformed citizens have been called upon to stand up to that tyranny.

We know America’s soldiers are strong, compassionate and decent for they represent the goodness that our country stands for. By their courage, they keep us safe; by their honor, they make us proud. And let not the mistakes of a handful taint the memory of the millions who have and are serving with honor.

But how often do we hear about the courage and selflessness of or soldiers? Not nearly as often as we hear about the doom and gloom that pours forth from network television and our major newspapers.

The odd fact about the American media in this war is that it's not covering the American military. The most plugged-in nation in the world is receiving virtually no true information about what its warriors are doing. We don't often hear about the heroes - the incredibly brave Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen who serve with honor.

Would you like to hear about a real American, somebody who honored the uniform he wears? Let me tell you about 29 year old Brian Chontos of Rochester, NY. Husband and father-to-be. A United States Marine and a genuine hero.

How do I know Brian is a hero? Well the secretary of the Navy said so last month when Brian was presented with the Navy Cross, the second highest award for combat bravery the United States can bestow.

But you never saw it on the network news or read about in any newspaper. In fact Brian's hometown newspaper coverage was two paragraphs of nothing. At this same time we couldn’t turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper without hearing about some misguided MPs and seeing never-ending photographs of naked Iraqis.

It was a year ago on the march into Baghdad. Brian Chontosh was a platoon leader rolling up Highway 1 in a Humvee when all hell broke loose. The column was halted by coalition tanks blocking the road ahead when they came under intense enemy fire.

The young Marines were being cut to ribbons by mortars, machine-guns, and rocket propelled grenades. And the kid out of Rochester was in charge. It was do or die and it was up to him.

So he moved to the side of his column, looking for a way to lead his men to safety. As he tried to poke a hole through the Iraqi line his Humvee came under direct enemy machine gun fire.

It was like shooting fish in a barrel and the Marines were the fish.

And like a typical Marine when under fire and out-numbered, LT Chontosh gave the order to attack. He told his driver to floor the Humvee directly at the machine gun emplacement that was firing at them. And he had the Marine on the Humvee’s .50 cal unload on them.

Within moments there were Iraqis slumped across their machine guns and the Marines were still advancing, Brian ordered his driver to run the Humvee directly into the Iraqi trench that was attacking the Marines….HIS Marines.

Over into the battlement the Humvee went and Brian Chontosh bailed out the door, carrying an M16, a 9 mm pistol and 228 years of Marine Corps pride.

He ran down the trench, filled with Iraqi riflemen, machineguns and grenadiers.

He fought with his M16 until he was out of ammo. Then he fought with his pistol until it was out of ammo.

Then he picked up a dead Iraq’s AK47 and fought with that until it was empty. Then he picked up another AK47 and continued to advance, empting it into the Iraqi ambush.

At one point he even fired a discarded Iraqi RPG into an enemy position, sending attackers flying with its grenade explosion.

When he was done, Brian Chontosh had cleared 200 yards of entrenched Iraqis from his platoon's flank. He had killed more than 20 and wounded at least as many more.

"By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, 1st Lt. Chontosh reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service."

That's what the citation says. And that's what nobody will hear.

That's what doesn't seem to be making the evening news. Accounts of American valor are seemingly dismissed by the press as propaganda, yet accounts of American difficulties are heralded as objectivity. It makes you wonder if the role of the media is to inform, or to depress - to report or to disparage. To tell the truth, or to deceive us. I am tempted to ask - Where is their honor?

Each of here knows about honor and believes in it. But you cannot believe in honor until you have achieved it. No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor is the reward for what you give. When there is a lack of honor among our nation’s institutions, including the media, the beliefs and ideals of the whole people are poisoned.

Our men and women are fighting for the security of America and for the advance of freedom, a most difficult task and one worth fighting for.

Our nation gained its own freedom and helped free much of the world by taking on difficult tasks. We're a confident people, and we have a reason to be confident. Our Armed Forces are skilled and powerful and dedicated. They're the best in the world and always have been.

In his inaugural speech, JFK pledged that the US should "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty." It is you, the veteran, who has paid the price, born the burden and felt the hardship of his promise. He also said: "The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God." Not a false god that advocates the slaughter and beheading of the innocent, but the God of mercy and righteousness that we acknowledge when we pledge allegiance to "One nation, Under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." This is the heritage our young men and women are protecting around the globe today.

My fellow veterans, this nation once placed the final success or failure of our heritage in our hands, and we have handed that responsibility to a new generation. History will be the final judge of our deeds. I pray with His blessing and His help, we will prevail according to His will, but knowing that here on earth, God's work must truly be our own.

It has been said that war is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The sad, misguided sentiment of those who believe that nothing is worth fighting for is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. A duty evaded is like a debt unpaid; it is only deferred, and someone must come back and settle the account at last.

Last week we witnessed the dedication of the World War II memorial in Washington DC a memorial that will stand forever in tribute to the "The Greatest Generation" of Americans. And today marks the 60th anniversary of D-Day. When General Eisenhower gave the go-ahead for the invasion to begin, he turned to his adjutant and said, "It is out of my hands now, I am just an observer. The future of the world is in the hands of the Privates on Omaha and Utah beach."

And the Privates on those beaches saved the world from fascist tyranny. Their sacrifice secured the blessings of liberty for hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The 400,000 who gave their lives in Europe, Africa the Pacific and on the oceans of the world in the name of liberty were lives that were not lost in vain - for it is by their the sacrifice and the courage and of all who served in that war that has given us every hour that we live in freedom.

I would like to take a moment to give special recognition to those of you here today who served in World War II. If you are able, would you please stand, if you cannot stand please raise your hand and allow us the privilege to acknowledge your service and sacrifice.

I pray that our country will never forget and always care for and support our veterans and their families. In his 2nd Inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln expressed this thought. "With malice toward none; with charity toward all; with firmness in the right - as God gives us to see the right - let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for those who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan." To you who have borne the battle, I pray that our nation heeds his words.

Over 200 years ago the freedoms that we cherish today were put on paper in our Constitution, but they were only words unless those freedoms were secured for us. So who gave us our freedoms?

It is the veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the veteran, not the anti-war protester, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the veteran, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protestor to burn the flag.

I would like to close by reading you parts of an article written by Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, USMC Chaplain. Chaplain O’Brien was once asked. What is A Veteran? This is his answer.


He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or didn't come back AT ALL.

He is the parade - riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

He is the old guy who bags groceries at the supermarket - palsied and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wished all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being - a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a liberator and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

Remember: At the close of life the question will be not how much have you got, but how much have you given. Not how much you have won, but how much you have done. Not how much you have saved, but how much you have sacrificed;

The sacrifice of each and every one of you is recognized by all those gathered here. You have defended the God-given liberty and freedom that this nation was founded for and you have our utmost respect and gratitude for a duty well done. May God bless you, may this nation bless God and may God bless the United States of America.

CW4 Douglas Tait (Ret)