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Ellwood City, Pennsylvania
Eric Poole is a reporter and columnist for the Ellwood City (Pa.) Ledger, a small newspaper nestled near the Ohio state line in the heart of Steelers Country. He has a wife, a son and a daughter (so there will be some daddy stuff on this blog). A former steelworker and retired rugby player, Poole has a wide range of interests, which was reflected in the 2008 Pennsylvania Newspaper Association awards, when Poole won first-prize honors for best columns and best special project. His upcoming book, "Company of Heroes," due out March 17, 2015, from Osprey Publishing, tells the story of Vietnam War hero Leslie Sabo and his comrades. Sabo was awarded the Medal of Honor May 16, 2012, in a White House ceremony.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The simple-mindedness of Bryan Fischer

"Ironically in war, an enterprise more readily associated with killing, Medals of Honor are given more often for saving lives than for taking them."

"... the strongest, most powerful thing a man can do in this world is not to kill or destroy, but to sacrifice."

The first of those two quotes is from page 26 of my book, Forgotten Honor and the second one is the book's closing lines, on page 207.

And they're both directed at Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, who wrote an article titled "The Feminization of the Medal of Honor," last week on the AFA's website.

In the article, he refers to last week's Medal of Honor award to Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, who was recognized for his above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty efforts to save the lives of his comrades during an ambush in Afghanistan. Fischer claimed that Medals of Honor were once awarded for rushing the enemy position at places like the "Pointe Do Hoc" during the D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II.

A couple of problems with that, Bryan. First, it's Pointe du Hoc. Second, none of the Army Rangers who scaled Pointe du Hoc received the Medal of Honor. Other than that though, you got it completely right.

In the face of criticism both from the media and from the choir of commenters he usually preaches to in his AFA column, Fischer said his words were twisted out of context, that Giunta deserved the Medal of Honor and he was merely pointing out that we no longer honor the kind of "rush the enemy" act that we did once.

OK, then let's use Fischer's words against him: "We rightly honor those who give up their lives to save their comrades. It’s about time we started also honoring those who kill bad guys."

He even revives Gen. George Patton's tired old saw - "You don't win wars by dying for your country. You win wars by making the other bastard die for his."

My response to that, from page 207 of Forgotten Honor, is that "You win wars by preventing you comrades from dying for their (country)."

I know a little bit more about this subject than Mr. Fischer does, primarily from researching my book, a biography of Sgt. Leslie Sabo Jr., who was killed May 10, 1970, in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Sabo was credited with saving the lives of more than 50 of his fellow soldiers and was killed while providing covering fire for a medical evacuation helicopter lifting two wounded soldiers off the battlefield.

And Fischer is wrong. It IS more important to protect your comrades than it is to kill the bad guys - especially today, because this war is no longer an exercise where one group of heavily-armed men attacks an emplacements that are defended by other heavily-armed men.

The current war is marked by engagements where the enemy strikes quickly in ambush then breaks off before they can be routed by the Americans' superior training, firepower and technology.

But even in the wars to which Fischer looks back nostalgically when he talks about the Medal of Honor's "Feminization," heroism isn't about killing the enemy. It's about defending your friends.

Fischer needs to do what I did - crack a history book or two.

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