What does a real life hero look like? On one hot August morning near Rawah, Iraq, a hero looked liked Lance Corporal Moses Cardenas of the Marines 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
Corporal Cardenas and his platoon had been barraged by an insurgent suicide bomb, numerous rocket-propelled grenades, and heavy machine gun fire. His seriously-injured sergeant was lying 50 meters away — 50 meters open to enemy fire.
Cardenas thought, “He was my sergeant; I had to do something,” and with that he courageously charged through the kill-zone to his wounded comrade. Running the gauntlet through enemy fire, he was shot in the neck. Undeterred, he arrived at Sgt. Randy Roedema’s exposed position and performed first-aid to stop the flow of blood from Roedema’s severe wounds.
He then pulled Roedema back across the open battlefield. Reaching the relative safety of his platoon’s convoy, Cardenas continued laying down suppressive fire until the situation came under control and medics could tend to the wounded Marines.
Cardenas was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest military award. Roedema would later reflect “I owe him my life.” Four days after Cardenas saved his life, Roedema’s wife gave birth to their first child – a child that will have a father because of the selfless act preformed by Cardenas on that summer morning in Iraq.
That’s what a real hero looks like.
The men and women who wear the uniforms of our nation’s armed forces and who willingly offer their lives to protect our freedom are real heroes. The stories of their courage can be found at www.defenselink.mil/heroes.
They continue the tradition of sacrifice and valor that America’s military has created over the centuries. And, like Lance Corporal Cardenas, most of them will remain relatively anonymous. The lack of notoriety does not lessen their heroism.
On May 26, we will be celebrating Memorial Day. It’s more than a three-day weekend.
In his General Order proclaiming May 5, 1868, the first Memorial Day for America’s military, General John Logan stated, “What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes?”
America’s men and women in uniform are still “making their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes”.
For those who have died in sustaining that barricade, we owe remembrance and gratitude. Flying the flag, joining at 3:00 PM in the National Moment of Remembrance, visiting and decorating the graves of friends and family members who have given all in service to our nation, and assisting those left widowed or orphaned by their gift should be part of our celebration.
For those who are standing along that barricade today, we offer honor and recognition. Thanking a man or woman in uniform for their service, lending a hand to the family left behind, and participating in efforts to support the troops should also be on our to-do list.
For the past 200 years, American heroes have ensured that the barricade between our country and its foes has remained unbroken. This week, let us together recognize their real-life heroism.
Happy Memorial Day!