“Travelers scowl at us, and countrymen give us scornful names. “Strider” I am to one fat man who lives within a day’s march of foes that would freeze his heart or lay his little town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly. Yet we would not have it otherwise. If simple folk are free from care and fear, simple they will be, and we must be kept secret to keep them so.” ~Aragorn, Lord of the Rings
Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations. Ask your father and he will inform you, your elders and they will tell you. Deuteronomy 32:7
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed just how many Americans have no idea of much of their country’s history, even with 20th century events. For instance, most adults can say that it was the attack on Pearl Harbor which brought America into the 2nd Word War, but unfortunately many young people don’t know who attacked or who America fought against, or who our allies were. Most have heard of the Holocaust, thanks to movies such as The Diary of Anne Frank or Schindler’s List, however there are some other amazing people who are not so well known during the time of the Nazi occupations. Women such as Corrie Ten Boom and Irena Sendler were ordinary people, yet did extraordinary things and saved many lives.
There will always be stories written of the important people, yet there are always many more who walk and work quietly, not expecting recognition. Yet these same individuals have touched others or influenced those around them. They may not be known to the world, but in our world today where movie and TV stars, sports stars, media stars, musicians and politicians are glorified and remembered, I would like to introduce some people to you who you may never have heard of. Some are a little more known than others, but others, if not for being alive in the memories of those who knew them, their stories would most likely be forgotten, never be known or told.
The first person I’d like to tell you about is Sgt. Eddie Jeffers. I didn’t know personally him, but I learned about him by reading an essay he wrote while deployed in Iraq. His essay changed forever how I feel, interact with and admire our Military men and women. While I always had the utmost respect for all who have served, it was when I read Sgt. Jeffers article “Hope Rides Alone” in the New Media Journal in February 2007 that I came to understand so much more, what they give up, and what they deal with.
Eddie’s story touched me so much that for the first time ever, I had to write back to the author. I didn’t get a reply from Eddie because he was still deployed, assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, and since hundreds of people were replying to him, his father David Jeffers wrote back, and that has been an incredible blessing as well. David has become a mentor, friend and brother in Christ to me and so many others- all because his son Eddie had a message for Americans.
America has lost its will to fight. It has lost its will to defend what is right and just in the world. The crazy thing of it all is that the American people have not even been asked to sacrifice a single thing… Unless you are in the military or the family member of a service member, its life as usual…the war doesn’t affect you… Right now, the burden is all on the American soldiers. Right now, hope rides alone. But it can change, it must change. Because there is only failure and darkness ahead for us as a country, as a people, if it doesn’t.
Eddie wrote two more articles, Freedom Feels Good, and Real Deal in Ramadi. Then one day, I learned that the only way I’ll be able to meet Eddie is in heaven. Sergeant Eddie Jeffers was killed on September 19th 2007 in Ramadi. He was 23.
Eddie’s legacy lives on still now because Hope doesn’t Ride Alone anymore; Hope Rides Eternal. And through the work of his dad David and others, there is an annual reunion, which celebrates Eddie’s life and is a patriotic event which highlights keynote and special speakers, and most of the proceeds go to Fisher House of the Emerald Coast, Eddie’s favorite charity.
All of those who knew him in real life and those of us who knew him through little glimpses and through his essays will always see him as a hero. He never considered his service to be special, he saw it as what he was meant to do, his God given work. I will always have a special place in my heart for our troops, all because of Eddie.
The next person I learned about in a song, so the story of Lawrence Joel may be a little more familiar.
Operation Hump was a Search and Destroy operation which began on November 8th 1965 by the 173rd Airborne Brigade, in an area a little north of Bien Hoa, Vietnam, and was meant to drive out Viet Cong fighters who had taken position in several key hills. The fighting was fierce, lasted over 24 hours and both sides suffered heavy losses—48 US Paratroopers died, many more wounded, and there were 403 dead Viet Cong.
A young man, named Lawrence Joel was a United States Army Sergeant First Class who served in Korea and in Vietnam where he served as a medic with the rank of Specialist Five assigned to 1st Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment in the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He and his battalion found themselves in a Viet Cong ambush, heavily outnumbered. Under intense gunfire, Joel gave first aid to wounded soldiers, defied orders to stay to the ground and instead, risked his life to help many wounded soldiers; nearly every soldier in the lead squad was either wounded or killed in the battle. He was shot twice and wounded yet he bandaged his own wounds and continued to help the wounded in both B and C companies. He ran out of medical supplies, and searched the ground for anything he could find and helped thirteen more and saved the life of one soldier who suffered from a severe chest wound by putting a plastic bag over the soldier’s chest in order to seal the wound until he could get more supplies. Lawrence was hospitalized afterwards, eventually sent to Tokyo, Japan to recover.
Lawrence Joel received the Silver Star and the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the battle with the Viet Cong on November 8th 1965. He was the first living black American to receive this medal since the Spanish-American War in 1898.
I have room enough in this article for one more. I learned about Arthur M. Galvan through a Veteran friend, as the Air Force Captain was his best friend’s dad.
Arthur Galvan enlisted shortly after high school, beginning his service at the lowest enlisted rank, eventually becoming Captain. He first experienced combat duty in 1989 during Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invasion of Panama which resulted in Gen. Manuel Noriega’s removal from power.
Galvan was assigned to the 16th Special Operations Squadron and 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field near Pensacola, Florida, but also went to Southern California to teach other Air Force officers.
On December 28, 1990, Galvan left Florida for Saudi Arabia. Less than two weeks after the war started, on January 31, 1991, an AC130H, better known as a Spectre Gunship, was performing a support mission deep into enemy territory when it went down over Kuwait while on a mission, looking for enemy targets and directing other aircraft to them.
It was reported that other aircraft heard a “mayday” distress call, but there was no indication of what caused the aircraft to crash. Search and rescue teams were unable to reach the aircraft’s location to recover any who may have survived. The crew of the aircraft was equipped with hand held survival radios called AN-PRC-68, which was thought to help survival chances of the crew members.
At the time, the Iraqis had said that Allied prisoners of war would be used as “human shields” to protect their important military sites from being attack by Allied forces. Because of false shoot-down reports put out by the Iraqis, the Pentagon was hesitant to release premature information about news of missing and captured military personnel, especially considering the treatment of US POW’s if they were captured.
Arthur Galvan’s family was notified that he was missing in action. Searches were ongoing for the aircraft and/or survivors, families were asked not to speak to media representatives. Little information was available about the crew or the mission until on March 6th, when the gunship was found off the coast of Kuwait and all aboard were finally listed as Killed in Action. Captain Galvan and the 13 others who served with him were posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the military’s third highest decoration for bravery. Captain Galvan also was awarded a Purple Heart.
A scholarship fund in honor of Arthur Galvan was established by Estancia High School, in Costa Mesa California, where Galvan had gone to school, and his legacy lives on.
These are just a few stories of many. I will introduce more as others continue to share their stories with me, because their stories are important and need to be told.
Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas is coming fast. These and others’ stories are a reminder to me, and I hope to others, especially younger generations, that we have so much to be thankful for. Not just on one or two special holidays, but every day. So many today are still doing what they consider to be ‘their jobs’, quietly, professionally, saving and helping the oppressed and helping to bring freedom to others. As Christmas comes, the season of celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus, who was born into the most humble of circumstances, laid to sleep in a feed trough. He was born for one purpose; to give His life for the sins of the world and to defeat death. His sacrifice, as the spotless Lamb was required and given for redemption.
Many millions have sacrificed so much; many millions have given their lives, displaying the true meaning of “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Our military men and women have given so much. The least I can do is share some of their stories. They may never be as popular as the latest ‘reality’ show star, but their stories are reality. While they don’t see themselves as such, they are all the real stars, and will always be heroes to me, and exceptional to those who knew and served with them.