Once again we are approaching the end of another year. As usual, we are treated to a remembrance of so-called celebrities who have passed away during the year. Celebrities that produced movies, acted in or starred in them, singers, songwriters, book authors, and the whole gamut of those who entertain us or otherwise make millions of dollars creating fantasies for us to lose ourselves in.
The Seattle PI gives us 40 Celebrity Deaths for 2010, containing such names as, Teddy Pendergrass, Jean Simmons, J.D. Salinger, Peter Graves, Robert Culp, Lynn Redgrave, Lena Horne, Art Linkletter, Patricia Neal, Tony Curtis and many more.
Most all of us have viewed, read or listened to these celebrities and have enjoyed their work over the years and their passing is no doubt sad.
Yet, looking over the list, I noticed some names not listed. Names like Melvin E. Biddle, David H. McNerney, David C. Dolby, Nick Bacon, Vernon Baker and John William Finn. These names don’t actually merit the listing as celebrities, even though each one did more for all of us than all of the celebrities in the world. Who are the men behind these names?
Melvin E. Biddle was an Army private first class in Company B of the 1st Battalion, 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment during World War Two. During the Battle of the Bulge, he reconnoitered the German lines alone, killed three enemy snipers, and silenced four hostile machine gun emplacements.
David H. McNerney was an Army first sergeant in Viet Nam who assumed command of his company during an attack by a numerically superior North Vietnamese force. Although wounded, he organized the unit's defense, exposed himself to hostile fire in order to mark and clear a helicopter landing site, and refused to be evacuated until a new commander arrived the next day.
David C. Dolby was an Army specialist four in Viet Nam who, when his platoon came under heavy fire that killed six soldiers and wounded a number of others, including the platoon leader, led his platoon in its defense, organized the extraction of the wounded, and directed artillery fire despite close-range attacks from enemy snipers and automatic weapons. He single-handedly attacked the hostile positions and silenced three machine guns.
Nick Bacon was an Army first sergeant in Viet Nam, who when his and another Platoon lost its leader, took command of both platoons and led both against the remaining enemy positions. During the evacuation of the wounded, Bacon climbed the side of a nearby tank to gain a vantage point and direct fire into enemy positions, despite his exposure to enemy fire. He was credited with killing at least 4 enemy soldiers and destroying an antitank gun.
Vernon Baker was an Army Lieutenant during World War Two that, with the platoon he was leading, killed 26 enemy soldiers and destroyed six machine gun nests, two observer posts and four dugouts near Viareggio, Italy.
John William Finn was a Navy Chief Petty Officer during the attack on Pearl Harbor at the outset of World War Two. Even though being repeatedly wounded, he continued manning a machine gun from an exposed position throughout the attack.
Six men, six names that barely made mention in any media, other than maybe a mention in their local media. None were famous for silver screen appearances, noteworthy novels or award winning television series. No, they weren’t famous at all actually and that is what is saddest today, no one actually knew these men’s names.
You see, they are the rarest of all men, the bravest our country has seen and the rarest amongst the bravest. They were all survivors of their battles to be personally awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for bravery and valor, while still living, most having been awarded posthumously.
They didn’t make millions of dollars nor did they do what they did for reward or notoriety, most never believing they deserved the medal they were awarded.
No, they weren’t celebrities, they were so much better. Yet, their passing merits little notice, unlike that of the passing of others who would use ‘stunt doubles’ to portray the actions these men actually did.
I guess it is a matter of what is really important to us, our entertainment or our freedoms.