December 27, 2004
BeliefNet's "Most Inspiring Person of the Year"
BeliefNet, a site that offers information and advice on topics ranging from A(theism) to Z(oroastrianism) has posted their choice for "Most Inspiring Person of the Year", following a popular vote. Here's a list of the finalists and the percentage of the vote received:
|Jason Dunham, Fallen Marine||33%|
|Christopher Reeve, Fallen actor||21%|
|Mukhtaran Bibi, Rape survivor||11%|
|Pat Tillman, Fallen Soldier||9%|
|Fantasia, "American Idol" contestant||8%|
|Margaret Hassan, Murdered by thugs in Iraq||5%|
|Smarty Jones, racehorse - why he's on this list at all is a mystery to me||5%|
|Nancy Reagan, caregiver and former First Lady||4%|
|Spc. Darby, Abu Ghraib whistle-blower||4%|
|Curt Schilling, Red Sox Pitcher||1%|
Following the vote, the editors of BeliefNet chose Pat Tillman to receive the award. Here's their reasoning:
Despite our intention to keep divisiveness out of the Most Inspiring Person this year, even acts of heroism are viewed through the lens of politics. Judging from online comments and our conversations with people about this year's nominees, it seems those who see mostly tragedy in the Iraq war are most inspired by Spc. Joseph Darby, who blew the whistle on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, or Margaret Hassan, the director of Care in Iraq, who devoted her life not to killing but healing. We would hope that all of us could see the extraordinary courage in all four of them. Surely war supporters can admire Margaret Hassan for staying in Iraq, at obvious personal risk, to help suffering Iraqis (the point of this war was, after all, to help Iraqis) or understand that one cannot promote a moral war while concealing the immorality of prison torture. Surely even the war's most outspoken opponents can appreciate the sacrifice evident in Pat Tillman?s story or the extraordinary courage and valor of Jason Dunham, who flung his helmet and possibly himself on a live grenade to protect the lives of others. Dunham won our "People's Choice" award among Beliefnet users. As one friend of Dunham?s wrote, "What he did for his fellow soldiers and for mankind in beyond comprehension. In our small town of Scio he will NEVER be forgotten."
There's more and you can read it at the BeliefNet site. I'm not quibbling over the choice between Pat Tillman and Jason Dunham - they're both heroes to me, although I do have a bias for Cpl. Dunham. Taking the deliberate action of throwing himself on a grenade to save the lives of his brother Marines elevates him to superhero in my book. A real superhero, in contrast to another entry on the list who played one on the movie screen, and would not be on the list at all if it were not for his celebrity status prior to his injury. In reading through the comments regarding Cpl Dunham's selection as "People's Choice", I was struck by some of the bone-headed, blindedness of the posts. Here are a couple:
I'm against the war precisely because of men like Cpl. Dunham. He deserved to serve and die in a war worthy of him. I don't think the one in Iraq is it. I hate the casual way in which the administration is using our courageous men and women. They deserve far better.
The hypocrisy of this statement is breathtaking. Cpl Dunham didn't deserve to die - none of our fallen heroes have. But to qualify wars as "worthy" based on armchair quarterbacking by folks with no stake in the outcome is insulting.
General Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps, pinned Cpl Dunham's Purple Heart medal on his hospital gown less than an hour before he died. In a speech later, he said that all Dunham's parents could talk about was how he felt about the Marine Corps and how he loved and respected the Marine Corps. "They have a 15-year-old son who wants to join the Marine Corps," the general said. "And they're going to support him."
Cpl. Dunham's parents, more than any one else, understand the ultimate sacrifice made by their son - putting the life of his brother Marines over his own. And they would support their younger son's decision to join the Corps. Amazing parents.
Here's another quote:
Killing yourself doesn't take as much courage as living. Killing yourself is over quickly. Living and striving through hardship is much harder than dying. The glory of God is the person fully alive. I say vote for one of the people who lived, and honor life, not death.
Commandant Hagee told of how Dunham, a 22?year-old squad leader, was engaged in close combat with an enemy combatant in Iraq when an enemy hand grenade threatened the safety of Dunham and his fellow Marines. Dunham reportedly jumped on the grenade, shielding the blast using his helmet and himself, and was severely wounded.
"He was thinking of only one thing: the Marines in his squad," Hagee said. Dunham was a member of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
Because of Cpl. Dunham, the other Marines on his team were spared. I wonder how the above commenter justifies his self-centered comment in light of the admonition of Jesus, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13. Cpl. Dunham demonstrated the epitome of love.
The next quote illustrates how blind some remain. Cpl. Dunham gave his life to protect his brother Marines. However, he was there in the first place to bring peace and freedom to the people of Iraq. In this entry, posted on the BeliefNet discussion board, the poster draws no distinction between Cpl. Dunham, the enemy combatant who tried to kill him and the other Marines, and Hitler's Nazi troops. It's ironic that someone who lives in a country where he is free to say anything he wishes, without fearing religious or military persecution, cannot make that distinction.
Is there really any difference between Jason's actions and those of the suicide bombers who he chose to confront? Being willing to die for unjust causes is not a quality of heroism, unless one is a member of the cult of death that supports the particuliar cause. The fact that the US military adventure in Iraq to control a fifth of the world's oil has murdered in excess of 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians and lost the faith of the Iraqi population in it's attempt to install it's CIA puppet makes the whole venture catastrophic and immoral. Would you have voted for one of Hitler's troops for this award sixty years ago?
Contrast the above with the message left on an online message board by childhood friend Dean Phillips: "I hope one day I could be half the hero he is. I hear there is a special place for heroes in heaven."
There is. I am certain that Cpl. Dunham is now guarding the streets of Heaven with other fallen Marines. And thank God that some people recognize what qualifies as inspiring. 33% of the people voting in this poll did. And future generations of Marines will - Cpl. Dunham's action will be told and retold by young Devil Dogs who will wonder privately if they would have the courage to act as he acted. He is an inspiration to them and to the rest of us as well.
Posted by Deb at December 27, 2004 11:19 AM
Some of the self-absorbed commenters are basically telling us why they think their lives are just as heroic as that of people who were tested in combat. I don't aspire to heroism, but I don't deny our men in uniform their gallantry, either.
Posted by: Zhang Fei at December 27, 2004 09:20 PM
Chris Reeve played a fantasy superhero in films.....Jason Dunham embodied the values and actions of a hero in real life.
OOOOrrahh Jason.....our loss is Heavens gain!
Posted by: Huntress at December 31, 2004 05:02 PM
I enjoyed this story but disagree with the comment about the person who has no 'stake' in the outcome of the war. I have talked at length with my attorney friend, and he has suggested that my previous comments on this post have been improper. I have thought deeply about this and do agree.
I can't blame the grunts for this war. The Sargeant and the Corporal and the Private are in fact honorable--Heros--and they should be hailed as such by the American people.
I know there are mothers worried and wives worried and children praying to God to bring back their daddy safely, and I believe that these are all good people. So, please keep in mind that I do not hate you or wish you ill will if I may object to some aspects of this war.
To return to my criticizm from earlier: I believe that every American should have a right to express their opinions about this war. It is my belief that sadly, there are many Americans that choose to ignore this war because they believe that there is nothing at "stake" for them. Such people are dangerously naive. There is something at stake for every American.
I would like to submit the example of an uncle of mine who came back from Vietnam. I was just a child and I can still remember when during thunderstorms he would hide upstairs under his bed sobbing in terror. Once, his wife came downstairs and quickly sent all of us home because she found him with a loaded rifle and sidearm. Several times the police were forced to subdue him when he went into one of his spells. Finally, we got the news from my crying mother that my uncle killed himself; the aunt mentioned that on that day he was murmering something about, "They weren't gooks, they weren't dinks, they were children, and I killed them like hogs...He just couldn't live with himself. But, I ask you, even though niether I, nor my mother, nor my Aunt ever went to war, don't you think that in fact something was at stake for them because of that war?
I have a father in law that will leave the room if someone mentions Vietnam or if a war movie comes on. I have caught him crying alone, but when he sees me he turns back into that stoic steely eyed soldier--and justs walks away. We has suffered divorce, family alienation, and strained relationships in general. His ex says of him, "He came back alive but really he was dead, and I couldn't allow myself and my children to live with a dead man." They never went to war, but there was obviously something at stake for them.
The real tragedy of war is the constant reality of injustice. How do you shoot a child bringing you a cluster bomb for candy? You do it to keep your men safe--you have to--you have no choice. But I think it catches up with you eventually, when you are older and feel a great urge to keep your loved ones away from such tragedy.
In conclusion, I believe that everyone has something at stake in this war, and it may be better to argue against it than to ignore it. I don't believe that objecting to the war is necessarily anti-American. For example, I believe that the humanitarian goals of the war have all failed. In my opinion, Fallujah was not a success for anyone. You cannot simply evict civillians from their communities and expect them to fend for themselves. We have taken responsibility for the people of Iraq, so we are obligated to help them. I think we need to tease out the civillian population in a several pronged operation aimed at placing the population in comfortable, well regulated DP camps. Think about the camps that Europeans lived in after WWII. On average, a displaced civillian lived in a DP camp for two years before returning to either their hometown or to places such as the United States and Israel. It is going to be tough, but we can't neglect the innocent. Armies are not meant to only kill things and break things. Remember that the United States likes to call its soldiers Peace Keepers and send Peace Keepers on humanitarian missions. If you want to avoid the horror of nightmares and unbearable regrets when you turn thereabouts middle aged, then focus on the protection of the innocent--make it your number one priority after mission accomplishment and troop wellfare, of course. But don't discount the innocent, because you will see the faces of the dead in your own family and children. It will mock you and you will feel very alienated. Kill the insurgents--kill them with great fury--you will collect no unconcious regret from destroying evil--but your soul knows the difference, and as you mature the soul speaks louder and clearer.
In the end, remember that there is something at stake for all of us.
If you don't like my words and think I am sitting in the armchair, then recruit me--I will fight with you--but you will have to call on me with genuine sincerity. I simply cannot take your assertions seriously until I see some true concern.
Posted by: Mattson at January 2, 2005 10:33 AM
Well, I knew Jason Dunham, and he was a good man. Jason was a warrior, and our country was built by warriors. Not actors, or horses, or soldiers exposing the horrors of war. War is ugly, but it is neccisary. Jason is a hero, and you should all appriciate that. If you dont, well your the same person that would probably give up your brother before yourself. You would be that person who is gutless, and weak. You should be ashamed of yourself, not just because of your selfishness, but because of your weakness. No pride, no dignity, just a scared soul running and hiding to avoid conflict. You know what, your the one who has to look at yourself in the mirror every day, not me.
Posted by: Crowe at April 10, 2005 01:24 AM
I teach 4th grade in Philadelphia and for Black history month I have my students read and write about black military heroes. Jason reminded me of Milton Olive of the Vietnam War...he too lost his life by using his body to shield a grenade from his buddies...he died of his wounds and was awarded the Medal of Honor...God Bless you Jason!!
Posted by: Ray Burns at May 31, 2005 08:27 AM