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Written by Vicki Hinze

On December 27, 2010

We Should Be More Selective with Our Admiration.

We hear a lot about pop stars and golfers behaving badly.  We hear a lot about icons in business or pop culture avenues.  We hear a lot about people who aren’t admirable but have done something titillating or scandalous or outrageous, or just plain nonsensical.  But we speak too little, and hear too little of acts of courage.  Of selfless acts of heroism.
Take for example, the case of Captain Ed Freeman.  Better yet, imagine that you are one of those who did witness his courage…
[paraphrased from accounting] You are a nineteen-year-old kid, critically wounded and dying in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam at LZ (landing zone) X-ray.  Your unit is outnumbered eight to one and the enemy fire is so intense, from 100 yards away, that your Commanding Officer has ordered the MedEvac–Medical Evacuation–helicopters to stop coming in.
You’re lying there, listening to the enemy machine guns and you know you will not be getting out alive.  Your family is halfway around the world, and you’ll never see them again.
The world fades in and out, and you know this is the day. Imagine the helplessness, the hopelessness, imagine your mother’s face at being told you’re dead, your father’s huge shoulders shuddering, your spouse’s despair at your life together being over, your children growing up without you, without knowing you and what they meant to you except through third party relays–no memories of a lifetime of growing.  Imagine…
Machine guns fire all around, kicking up dust and dirt, and over the sound you hear a faint thump, thump, thump–a helicopter.
Looking up, you see an inbound Huey. It has no MedEvac markings–can’t be real.  Your mind is playing tricks on you, making you see what you wish to see and not what is there.  What is real.
But the helicopter is real.  It is real, and Captain Ed Freeman is coming in under enemy fire for you.  To save you…

Captain Ed Freeman is not in a MedEvac chopper, so coming isn’t his job.  But he’d heard the radio call and decided to take on the risks to get you out anyway–even after the MedEvacs were ordered not to come.
He drops in and sits there, taking on machine gun fire while you and two others are boarded, then the captain flies you up and out through the gunfire to doctors and nurses–to safety.
Is he a worthy hero in your eyes?
What if you later discovered that Captain Freeman kept going back. That he made thirteen more trips that day–in each of them doing that which was not his job.  Taking risks he didn’t have to take, but because he did, men lived, enjoyed lives–they survived.  You survived.
Thirteen more trips he made through enemy fire.  Until all the wounded were out.
What about now?  Is he a worthy hero to you now?
What if there’s more?  What if after the mission was over and everyone had been rescued you discovered that while rescuing you and the others Captain Ed Freeman had been shot four times in his legs and left arm?
A hero now?  Definitely a hero.
Captain Freeman took twenty-nine men out of harm’s way and to a safe place for the medical care they needed.  Without him, it is said, some would not have survived.
For his actions that day in 1967, he received the Medal of Honor–according to the Washington Post, in 2001.  The thirty-four (34) year delay was not explained.
In 2008, Captain Freeman died in Boise, Idaho.  God bless him and rest his soul.
At that time we likely didn’t hear about Captain Freeman’s passing.  In our culture, the news is flooded for days on overdosing or misbehaving celebrities, but few spare a mention of courageous men who willingly sacrifice for others.  Men like our captain.  As a people, we’re poorer for it.
And that is the point of this post.  We should feel shame about that lack and change our ways.  Oh, you and I can’t control what the media elects to cover–except by changing channels and subscribing or unsubscribing on subscriptions and sites we frequent or avoid.  But we can start with ourselves.  We can raise the bar in our own lives on what we admire and on being admirable people.  We can elevate our own standards.
We can choose to direct our admiration and express our respect for men like Captain Freeman.
In our jobs, in our lives, we can raise our own standards.  Respect all, but be very selective about what and whom we admire.
Worthy heroes are not in short supply.  They abound still today.  The change is in us, that we don’t notice them.  Their honor is intact.  It is ours that is lacking.
Yet we are neither a lost cause nor hopeless.  Today is a new day, and today we can make different choices.  We can choose to acknowledge the best in us and others.  We can choose to raise our standards and respect but give our admiration to those among us who positively impact the lives of others.
We can raise our own standards, become admirable people.  In doing individually, we do so collectively, and our collective world becomes a much better and safer place.
Thank you, Captain Freeman.  For what you did for those twenty-nine and their families that day.  For hosting the American spirit at its shining best.  For exemplifying the traits of a worthy hero.
As a man of character, you lit a path for the rest of us to follow.  We’re grateful.  Thank you too for reminding us of what true heroism is and that it and not sensationalism is worthy of our admiration.  That is the gift you’ve given the rest of us today.
Your legacy lives.❖


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