Tuesday, November 16, 2010
"Warrior Ethos" and Repatriating the Intrepid Crew
The first living Medal of Honor recipient in decades is honored for retreiving the bodies of comrades in Afghanistan, action the President said, "embodied the warrior ethos that says I will never leave a comrade."
Reading the citation for the latest Medal of Honor recipient, who fought off enemy soldiers trying to carry off the body of an American soldier, you must recall the grade school lessons about the Greek City States and Sparta, and how the Spartains soldiers either returned home with their shields or dead on it, their bodies carried home by their fellow soldiers.
I also thought of what Mayor Jack Glasser and Chip Reid said at Somers Mansion on Richard Somers Day in September, 2010, that Somers would have earned a Medal of Honor if he had done what he did today.
And also of the article from Annapolis, about Chip Reid and his upcoming book about the men of the first USS Intrepid and the Battles of Tripoli.
The article includes the opinion of an authorative Navy historian, that it was common in those days - two hundred years ago, to bury the men at sea, and not return their remains, and implying that the remains of Somers and his men should remain right where they are - in an unmarked grave under a parking lot in Tripoli.
Those men weren't "burried at sea" in a formal ceremony, as was my uncle Leo Kelly after being killed in combat during the battle of Coral Sea in 1943.
Those men were burried in a makeshift grave by the surgeon and prisoners of the USS Philadelphia who were allowed to leave their dungeons to bury their commrads, and did so by clearly marking their graves with rocks and crosses so they could be retrived, but never were.
The Italian who sculptured the first battle monument in honor of the heroes of Tripoli, and including the names of the officers Somers, Wadsworth, Israel, Decatur, et al., did so with the understanding that the remains of these men were to be entombed in the monument.
And their biographer and early US Navy historian John Finemore Cooper, wrote that "one day a Navy ship will pass that way and return with their remains so they can be properly burried among their friends on home soil."
It was never the intention of the officers and men of the Navy to leave the remains of those men in Tripoli, especially the remains of those first midshipmen and officers who established the traditions that are maintained by the military today, including the "warrior ethos that says I will never leave a comrade."
Well Richard Somers and his men were left behind enemy lines, and they are still there, waiting for the comrades and heroes who embody that warrior ethos today, to come and get them and return them home where they belong.