Hollywood has the “Oscars.” Now Washington has the “Honors.” Sponsored by the American Veterans Center and Northrop Grumman Corporation, hundreds of millions will have the opportunity to be enriched by our military heroes’ “full measure of devotion” when “The Honors” airs this weekend on DODNews http://dodnews.defense.gov/, broadcasting on military bases around the world and in millions of American homes.
It will also air Saturday, November 15 at 5 p.m. (EST) on the Reelz network http://www.reelz.com/specials/ which reaches 66 million homes around the country.
The culmination of the three-day AVC Veterans Conference held at the Naval Heritage Center, “The Honors” recognized American military heroes who have shown courage under fire in conflicts ranging from World War II to Afghanistan. (See full list below and at: http://www.americanveteranscenter.org/events/avchonors/)
One of the most poignant moments was when Lt. Col. James Megellas (“Maggie”), 97, was bequeathed the Audie Murphy Award–WWII. Megellas, who served with Murphy on Anzio Beach on January 20, 1944, said, he “was great not just for his accomplishments but for his leadership.”
In taking the podium to accept his award, after a film compellingly recounting Maggie’s story, this dynamic veteran with his mane of silver hair recalled the most gripping experience “in the waning days of the war,” as they were “moving rapidly through Germany.”
After being summoned to “an encampment of barbed wire,” where “inside (were) a bunch of skinny looking men,” he made tracks. Arriving, he said, “we shot the lock off the gate and, as we did, the SS troopers went out the other gate.” So he set up a unit there, ready to stop them should they return.
“We went inside,” he said, “and saw it as it existed every day of operation, if I may use that term. It was an ‘every day operation.’ Bodies were lying everywhere, there were ditches dug, they were going to throw a lot of them in there. I went through what they call the barracks, and they were nothing but tarpaper shacks, and I talked with several people that I could communicate with.” Not one survivor weighed over 65 pounds, he said.
This reality of “man’s capacity for inhumanity to man” had all unfolded before their eyes as they fought for two years, he said. But, “It was there that we fully realized what we’d been fighting for. Soldiers enter the service for a cause. They believe in something. They believe in this great country of ours and the freedoms we enjoy… but here for the first time it hit me… the cause greater than ourselves was… to destroy the monstrosity that the Nazis had created, or it certainly would have engulfed freedom-loving people everywhere.”
After asking him about how his experience informs present-day atrocities also unfolding before our eyes, he told me during the earlier “Legends of World War II” panel, “We tend to dismiss it here. But we can’t. And, I think if the Holocaust taught us anything, it is that we cannot be indifferent to these things, wherever they might happen, because that’s not the kind of people we are as Americans.” (The panel also featured Lt. Col. Richard Cole, Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot, and Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, an engineer during the epic Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1942 that bombed Japan in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.)
Stories of heroism down through the decades, during World War II (1.2 million vets left, dying at 700 a day), Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, in space, and on the assembly line were also featured, with films narrated by Gary Sinise, Joe Mantegna, and other celebrities.
Fighting for values Americans hold dear, of course, comes at a steep price.
The Wounded Warrior Experience, co-sponsored by The Military Order of the Purple Heart Foundation, and hosted by Jennifer Griffin, is airing on DODNews this weekend. (November 15: 4 a.m., 3 p.m.; November 16: 11 a.m., 6 p.m. — all times EST) http://dodnews.defense.gov/, highlighted this price. It featured veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Iraqi Freedom, showing remarkable spirit and courage as, now, they wage the ongoing battle to cope with the wounds of war, visible and hidden. This is where Americans get to give back in exchange for their awesome service. Tune in and learn how!
Mary Claire Kendall is a Washington-based writer. Her book, Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends, is being published next spring.
Full list of Honors recipients: http://www.americanveteranscenter.org/events/avchonors/:
- Colonel James Megellas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Megellas United States Army, known as “The Most Decorated Officer in 82nd Airborne History,” recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star;
- 101st Airborne Division, United States Army, for their historic role on D-Day, the 70th anniversary of which was celebrated in Junehttp://www.breitbart.com/Big-Hollywood/2014/06/05/civilian-parachute-d-day, and their Legendary Stand at Bastogne;
- The Borinqueneers, United States Army, the decorated Puerto Rican regiment, recently voted the Congressional Gold Medal;
- SFC Melvin Morris, United States Army, Vietnam War veteran, Green Beret, and Medal of Honor recipient;
- SFC Joe Kapacziewski, United States Army, U.S. Army Ranger, first and only soldier to return to combat with a prosthetic limb;
- Sergeant Dakota Meyer, United States Marine Corps, Marine Corps veteran of Afghanistan and recipient of the Medal of Honor;
- Lt. General Susan J. Helms, United States Air Force, NASA Astronaut, Crew Member of Space Shuttle Endeavor, the first U.S. military woman in space
- Elinor Otto, the last “Rosie the Riveter,” building airplanes since 1942.