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November 07, 2009

To Media, American Heroism Might As Well Be Urban Legend

How bizarre is it when the number two link on Google for Brian Chontosh, a bona fide war hero and recipient of the Navy Cross, goes to a site devoted to "debunking" urban myths?

Is the idea that a Marine officer could perform acts of heroism so outlandish that it requires debunking? If so, there's little doubt why so many Americans might doubt such tales. Every day we're force fed a distorted, dishonest narrative that magnifies every misdeed and sweeps acts of heroism under the rug. This, we are given to understand, is "journalistic objectivity" in action:

The media has an unfortunate history of wrongly pushing the narrative that military service is somehow a horror-filled dehumanizing experience. In 2007, The New York Times magazine ran a 10,000 word cover story about a Navy veteran who claimed she had been raped twice while serving, suffered a brain injury as the result of an IED explosion in Iraq, and was otherwise unable to cope with life due to the stress. It turns out the subject of the story had never been to Iraq and her story was otherwise fabricated, and the Times magazine didn't do any real due diligence in fact checking the woman's claims. In 2008, The New York Times again ran a sensational report claiming military service was turning soldiers into murderers -- returning vets had committed or were charged with 121 murders in the United States since the current wars began. The New York Times did not mention that while this statistic may seem shocking, returning vets were actually committing murder at a rate five times less than the general population.

That the elite media will exercise extreme caution reporting Islamic terrorist attacks, but smear the military as a matter of course is awfully telling. When the Los Angeles Times report was shown to be way off-base, the paper simply disappeared the account.

To the media, Brian Chontosh's heroics are not something to be proud of, but something shameful. But not all journalists are willing to see these inspiring stories flushed down the memory hole:

... Brian Chontosh gave the order to attack. He told his driver to floor the humvee directly at the machine gun emplacement that was firing at them. And he had the guy on top with the .50 cal unload on them.

Within moments there were Iraqis slumped across the machine gun and Chontosh was still advancing, ordering his driver now to take the humvee directly into the Iraqi trench that was attacking his Marines. Over into the battlement the humvee went and out the door Brian Chontosh bailed, carrying an M16 and a Beretta and 228 years of Marine Corps pride.

And he ran down the trench.

With its mortars and riflemen, machineguns and grenadiers.

And he killed them all.

He fought with the M16 until it was out of ammo. Then he fought with the Beretta until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up a dead man’s AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up another dead man’s AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo.

At one point he even fired a discarded Iraqi RPG into an enemy cluster, sending attackers flying with its grenade explosion.

When he was done Brian Chontosh had cleared 200 yards of entrenched Iraqis from his platoon’s flank. He had killed more than 20 and wounded at least as many more.

Back in 2005 I conducted a little thought experiment. I went to America's leading newspapers and searched on the names of American heroes. What I found out won't surprise you if you've been paying attention. Mentions of Cindy Sheehan were thick upon the ground. Mentions of American heroes? Not so much:

Sgt. Rafael Peralta didn't have to become a United States Marine. And he didn't have to go to war. That's just the kind of man he was.

He joined the Marine Corps the day after he received his green card. On the walls of his bedroom, there were only three items: the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and his boot camp graduation certificate. You can see the mind of this hero in his letters he diligently wrote home to his younger brother and sister. Before he left America, he wrote his 14-year old brother Ricardo,

"be proud of me, bro...and be proud of being an American."

Ricardo and his sister would receive another letter from their brother:

"I was just doing my homework and there was a knock on the door," said Ricardo Peralta, 14. "The moment I saw them, I knew."

In his letter to Ricardo, Rafael said he was doing something he had always wanted to do. He asked Ricardo to be proud of him because the Marines were making history in Iraq.

Rafael had been killed during an assault on Fallujah.

His body took most of the blast. One Marine was seriously injured, but the rest sustained only minor shrapnel wounds. Cpl. Brannon Dyer told a reporter from the Army Times, "He saved half my fire team."

Most Americans have never heard of Rafael Peralta, and they never will.

In past wars, he would have been a hero. His name would have been a household word, his deeds an inspiration to small boys, their eyes growing wide with amazement at his sacrifice. The chests of old men would have puffed out in pride. Crusty veterans would have stood a bit taller, remembering their own service. Women would have grown misty-eyed, and young girls would have laid flowers on his grave, wiping away a tear as they dreamed of handsome heroes.

But they will never hear of him - his voice has been silenced. The mainstream media does not consider the sacrifices of men like Sgt. Rafael Peralta "newsworthy". The media do not seem interested in talking to Sgt. Peralta's family. Instead, we get to hear about Cindy Sheehan all day, every day.

When the shootings at Fort Hood first hit the airwaves, how many news anchors invoked the grim specter of a PTSD addled combat vet run amok? Even when the facts began to roll in, the press were reluctant to abandon the narrative. Amazingly, it was revealed that PTSD is contagious! Like swine flu, one can get it simply by talking to a combat veteran.

Those who treat the mentally wounded, including doctors such as Hasan, are not immune from the symptoms. It is not uncommon for therapists who treat patients for post-traumatic stress disorder to experience some symptoms vicariously after hearing account after account of the horrors of the battlefield.

Hasan was a psychiatry intern at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from June 2003 to July 2009, Army officials said. In that position, he probably treated soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

With their hatred of the military and everything associated with it, the mainstream media rarely miss a chance to remind us that there are dangerous psychopaths lurking in our midst. At any moment one of these ticking time bombs could explode, taking us down with him. What the media are less willing to acknowledge is that both combat and military experience are a double-edged sword. They want you to see veterans as combat addled freaks, not brave defenders of our way of life. They focus on the cloud, and not the silver lining:

Research appears to show that many people can emerge from traumatic experiences with greater self-confidence, a keener sense of compassion and appreciation for life, says Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, director of the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. Cornum and other experts call this concept post-traumatic growth.

Although the military focuses attention on troops who develop mental health conditions in combat, Cornum says, the majority of war veterans do not suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other problems.

“We never ask if anybody had some positive outcomes. We only ask about this laundry list of illnesses,” says Cornum, referring to a battery of health questions soldiers face when they leave the combat zone.

Thus it is left up to us to keep the memory of American heroism green. The media can be counted upon to bombard us with tales of tragedy, death, and despair. The rest of the story - the incredible heroism, healing, and redemption that springs from the heartbreak of war, tends to get lost by the wayside.

The truth is that war is a terrible thing. It breaks some of us beyond repair. But hardships can make us better men and women. Sometimes it takes tragedy to bring out the shining strength of the human spirit. In a world where bad things happen on a daily basis, that's a message we need to hear about, too. What a shame that most of the press don't agree.

Won't you look deep inside your heart and open your wallet to help wounded vets?

Not because they are pitiful victims. But because with the knowledge that America believes in them, there is nothing these amazing men and women cannot overcome.

Posted by Cassandra at November 7, 2009 12:18 PM

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Thank you, Cass, and...... Amen!

Posted by: Charodey at November 7, 2009 02:00 PM

Not because they are pitiful victims. But because with the knowledge that America believes in them, there is nothing these amazing men and women cannot overcome.

Amen!!!! It is truly my honor to have a role in "supporting" America's men and women in the true sense of that word. Adding a breath of wind under their wings and then watching them soar is humbling and inspiring.

Posted by: FbL at November 7, 2009 02:10 PM

The weak and cowardly fear the strong; hence,compensate by portraying those they can never be by cravenly painting them as victims or criminals.

Why we should feel compelled to protect them, their speech or crappy lives beats the hell our of me.

Posted by: jhstuart at November 7, 2009 06:54 PM

Dear jhstuart,

You said: "Why we should feel compelled to protect them, their speech or crappy lives beats the hell our of me."

I don't know that there is an easy or simple answer. But it is an oath we take, and a honorable burden that we share willingly and freely. Remember, if you will, the treatise of LTC (ret) Dave Grossman (http://www.gleamingedge.com/mirrors/onsheepwolvesandsheepdogs.html),

wherein he states "...If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero's path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed

Let me expand on this old soldier's excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial, that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids' schools.

But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid's school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep's only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.

The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, can not and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn't tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, "Baa."

Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog."

We are those sheepdogs, and we protect the flock, even though we frighten them and they despise us. It is our nature, it is our training; it is who we are.

If you don't feel compelled, I suppose you can join the flock or the pack - your choice. But we are a great nation, STILL a great nation because people are willing to stand up for whats' right and try to correct what isn't....even when the political machine makes it impossible...or tries to, because nothing is impossible if you are willing to work at it.

Not a slam or criticism of you sir/ma'am, but merely pointing out why, IMHO, we do what we do.



And Miss cassandra, hang tough. We are with you.

Posted by: Kbob in Katy at November 7, 2009 07:23 PM

It is not uncommon for therapists who treat patients for post-traumatic stress disorder to experience some symptoms vicariously after hearing account after account of the horrors of the battlefield.

With that sentence, WaPo has declared that therapists are so shallowly-rooted in reality that they are incapable of determining what has, or hasn't, occurred in their own lives, and thus are all mentally unstable ab initio...

Posted by: BillT at November 8, 2009 12:10 AM