The real heroes of history aren’t always the people we know about. I’m not saying famous heroes like George Washington, Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. aren’t worthy, of course they are.
I’m just saying that I had never heard of Larry Colburn until he died last Tuesday. Didn’t know anything about his heroism and bravery, and his important role in American history.
Maybe you didn’t either, so let me direct you to his wonderful obituary. Larry Colburn was an 18-year-old American soldier in Vietnam in 1968 when he was thrust into an impossible situation. He and two comrades were witness to the massacre of completely unarmed Vietnamese civilians by the U.S., and he and two other soldiers, including helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson Jr., swooped down to land the aircraft and confront the U.S. soldiers committing this atrocity.
From Sam Roberts’ NYT obit: “Mr. Thompson was just beside himself,” Mr. Colburn recalled in an interview in 2010 for the PBS program “The American Experience.” “He got on the radio and just said, ‘This isn’t right, these are civilians, there’s people killing civilians down here.’ And that’s when he decided to intervene. He said, ‘We’ve got to do something about this, are you with me?’ And we said, ‘Yes.’ ”
Mr. Thompson confronted the officer in command of the rampaging platoon, Lt. William L. Calley, but was rebuffed. He then positioned the helicopter between the troops and the surviving villagers and faced off against another lieutenant. Mr. Thompson ordered Mr. Colburn to fire his M-60 machine gun at any soldiers who tried to inflict further harm.
“Y’all cover me!” Mr. Thompson was quoted as saying. “If these bastards open up on me or these people, you open up on them. Promise me!”
“You got it boss,” Mr. Colburn replied. “Consider it done.”
Mr. Thompson, Mr. Colburn and Glenn Andreotta, the copter’s crew chief, found about 10 villagers cowering in a makeshift bomb shelter and coaxed them out, then had them flown to safety by two Huey gunships. They found an 8-year-old boy clinging to his mother’s corpse in an irrigation ditch and plucked him by the back of his shirt and delivered him to a nun in a nearby hospital.
Crucially, they reported what they had witnessed to headquarters, which ordered a cease-fire. By then, as many as 500 villagers had been killed.
Just… wow. Think about an 18-year-old kid, in a foreign land, being ordered by his superior to fire on fellow American soldiers, and what kind of mental anguish that must’ve put him in. Even knowing he was stopping evil, Colburn must’ve been overwhelmed, then and in the years that followed, by what he did, pointing guns at his fellow Americans.
How many of us could’ve done that, to confront fellow U.S. soldiers?
I urge you to read the whole obit. We see so much fake courage in 2016, from politicians to crooked religious leaders to TV stars who become President. This, what Larry Colburn did, was real courage.
I wish his story would be told in every high school classroom in America today.
**Next up, another great carpool Karaoke episode from James Corden, that I finally got around to watching. Madonna, bless her heart, looks amazing here. I don’t know how much work she’s had done surgically or who her doctor is, but do you realize this woman is 58 years old?? Amazing.
** Finally today, we’re coming down the stretch in the NFL regular season, and the season has certainly gotten better as its gone along.
The 1 p.m. game Sundays were almost all good and close (except for the poor Cleveland Browns, who are just pathetic).
Couple quick-hits from a damn exciting Week 15…
— Ladies and gentlemen, the Tennessee Titans! What a crazy way they won Sunday. Down 17-10 to the Chiefs with three minutes left, they scored to draw within 17-16. They then, mind-bogglingly to me, tried for a 2-point conversion to take the lead, and failed.
Then, Marcus Mariota, their rapidly-improving QB, drove them into field goal range in the final seconds, where kicker Ryan Succop nailed a 53-yard field goal, in the freezing cold of Arrowhead Stadium to win the game. Wow. Titans are 8-6.
— Now, the Eagles going for two in the final seconds, down 1 to the Ravens, to try to win DID make sense to me. You’re Philly, you’re 5-8, you’ve got no shot at the playoffs, what the hell. It didn’t work, but I really like Carson Wentz’s future.
— This Giants team is starting to look like the last two Super Bowl winners, am I right? That was a dominating defense that shut down Detroit Sunday.
— So this isn’t NFL-related, but did you see this insane game-winning catch by Youngstown State’s Kevin Rader to win a FCS semifinal Saturday night? Incredible.
— Oh yeah, the Jets played this weekend. They lost 34-13. Nothing to see here…
— Finally, reports are that Rex Ryan will be fired by the Bills after just two seasons. Color me shocked (not). I loved Rex when he came to the Jets, but it became pretty clear as the years went on that the man is just not a good head coach. I was stunned when the Bills hired him, and in two years he’s shown he’s still not a good head coach.
Rex Ryan: Great for a few laughs, but not too many wins.