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As Americans, we’re blessed to live in the greatest nation in the world. But all too often we tend to take for granted the heroes among us who fought and sacrificed to protect us, our ideals, and our freedom.
Col. Charles P. Murray Jr. was one such hero. In fact, he showed us the true meaning of the word “hero.”
We lost a great South Carolinian on Aug. 12, when Col. Murray passed away. I was fortunate to have known Chuck as a friend for many years.
He was a World War II hero, modest by every measure, whose honors included three Bronze stars and Two Silver stars. But his greatest military distinction was that he received a Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award bestowed on those remarkable members of our military who exhibit “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity” in the face of life-threatening combat. Chuck’s citation referred to the “supreme courage and heroic initiative” he displayed in leading a small unit of men to overrun a much larger enemy force in Europe a few days before Christmas Day 1944.
I recall being awestruck the first time I heard him describe the details of that occasion. Trying to describe those details in this limited space certainly wouldn’t do them justice, but his Medal of Honor citation notes that in December 1944, fighting in France as a platoon leader in our Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, he singlehandedly eradicated 20 enemy soldiers and captured 10 others to save the lives of his own men. Although he suffered serious grenade injuries during his assault, he returned to combat just days later to continue leading his troops.
Later in life, Col. Murray became an advocate for issues affecting military veterans and he often spoke of the importance of inspiring patriotism in today’s young people.
As a military veteran, I’ve always deeply admired men like Col. Murray. And I admire all the men and women today who put on the uniform and put their lives on the line to defend us.
Unfortunately, it sometimes seems that they don’t always receive the appreciation they deserve.
I remember a time when military service was almost considered a prerequisite for those who sought elected office. That’s not the case anymore.
A look at Washington D.C., or even here at home, shows a growing number of politicians who have never donned a uniform. And while I’d never suggest that men who haven’t served in the military shouldn’t seek elected office, I sometimes question whether this has contributed to government’s increasingly careless attitude toward issues affecting the men and women of our armed forces.
In the last 150 years, nearly 3,500 people have received the Medal of Honor. Today, there are just more than 80 of them still living.
Medal of Honor recipients are a disappearing group. And that’s a shame, because one thing is certain: America is a much better country because of genuine but unsung heroes like Col. Chuck Murray.