Opinion

‘By Honor Bound’ is a book with a much needed message

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“By Honor Bound,” is the autobiographical story of Vietnam War US Navy SEAL Congressional Medal of Honor recipients Tom Norris and Mike Thornton. In the book’s epilogue I learned new things about that medal. Moreso, I was reminded of the contrast of how people I grew up with — adults and kids — valued America as the Land of the Free; much different than the America of self-identified socialists running for US President in 2020.

Where these socialists are dispiriting, “By Honor Bound” lifted my spirits.

A Baby Boomer, with parents of America’s “Greatest Generation,” I grew up on Long Island, New York among families of all nationalities. None of us were hyphenated Americans. We were Americans. Coming of age in the ‘60s, I understood America was not without room for improvement. Hasn’t that always been true?

Four-year-old grandson Grafton came to me with a ceramic bear he’d dropped and broken in two. Handing me the bear’s body and head, Grafton said, “Fix it.”

That’s the American spirit I know: Something wrong? Fix it. The beauty of the American culture and republican system of government is that we were encouraged to fix things. Nothing was stopping us, except maybe ourselves.

The root American values and characteristics I was taught were solid, aspirational. This morning, driving to Bar Harbor, I remembered an obscure example: Walt Disney’s 1957 tv series, “Johnny Tremain,” the story of a young Bostonian who joins the Sons of Liberty and fights the British in the American Revolution. Just six years old when I was watching “Johnny Tremain,” I can still sing the first verse to the show theme song:

Johnny Tremain of old Boston town,
Remember his name, he fought in homespun brown.
Fought and won ’cause his heart was free,
Fought and won for liberty,
Johnny Tremain, Johnny Tremain

Which brings me back to what I learned about the Congressional Medal of Honor reading “By Honor Bound.”

“For almost a century there were no decorations or medals awarded American soldiers, sailors, or marines. [During] the Civil War, Congress authorized a single medal…for conspicuous gallantry — a medal to be awarded (to Union soldiers) for the highest order of courage and heroism…called the Congressional Medal of Honor.

“[T]he constraints and conditions for the Medal [were] more formatted and elevated,” in World War I, wrote “Bound” authors.

In 1958, President Eisenhower signed federal legislation to create the Congressional Medal of Honor Society — made up of Medal of Honor recipients. The Society has nine purposes outlined in U.S. law. Purposes six, eight, and nine especially caught my attention:

6. Promoting patriotism and allegiance to the Government and Constitution of the United States.
8. To promote and perpetuate the principles upon which our nation is founded.
9. To foster patriotism and inspire and stimulate our youth to become worthy citizens of our country.

Also, I was taken by the stated Values of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation: Courage, Sacrifice, Patriotism, Citizenship, Integrity, Commitment.

What struck me most after reading the Congressional Medal of Honor Society/Foundation Purpose and Values? They are the same values and purposes kids learned when I was growing up. You would find them in grade school text books.

Retired SEAL Tommy Norris said in “Bound,” “[A]n important benefit of being a [Medal of Honor] recipient is that I get to meet and talk to a lot of schoolkids — grade school and high school kids. I’d like to think that some of my experiences will help or inspire them to be a better student or a better citizen or to serve their country in some way.

“[T]here’s no better feeling than to know you’ve made a difference in a young life,” Norris said.

These American purposes and values made a difference in my young life. They still do.

Book Link: https://www.amazon.com/Honor-Bound-SEALs-Extraordinary-Courage/dp/1250130212/

Johnny Tremain TV Series: https://www.amazon.com/Johnny-Tremain-Hal-Stalmaster/dp/B00005JM6F/

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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