Freedom is Not Free

Amidst the barbecues and fireworks, the 4th of July is also a reminder that our freedom did not come free.

The decoration commonly referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest military recognition awarded by the US government.

Of the Medal of Honor awardees, 2,404 served in the Army, 746 the Navy, 297 the Marine Corps, 17 the Air Force, and 1 in the US Coast Guard.

With its roots going back to 1790, the US Coast Guard was officially established in 1915.

This is the heroic story of Douglas Munro--the Coast Guard’s only Medal of Honor recipient:

It was 27 Sept., 1942. Signalman First Class Douglas A. Munro wouldn't see the 28th.

Munro, the first and only member of the U.S. Coast Guard to receive the Medal of Honor, had been aboard the seaplane tender Ballard.

Anchored just off Guadalcanal, the ship received word that 500 men from the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, had met fierce resistance from the Japanese and were pinned down on the beach, their backs to the sea. So bad was it that the Marines had begun to stack dead bodies - like sandbags - for cover.

Munro immediately volunteered to lead five Higgins boats in to get them out.

The signalman and his crew stayed low in the small boats as lead whistled and screamed overhead. As they neared the island the anguished cries and moans of wounded Marines grew louder, until a gentle bump followed by a scraping sound told the rescue team they had arrived in hell.

The gray-helmeted Munro and his crew swung into action. The evacuation had begun.

The Higgins boats, too small to remove all of the Marines at one time, made several trips from the island to ships.

Near the end of the mission, when only a few Marines remained on the beach, enemy fire intensified, pinning them once again.

Munro recognized immediately that the Marines were in an untenable position, and their deaths were imminent. He quickly placed his vessel between the beachhead and the enemy, thus drawing the fire to himself.

When the last Marine was huddled safely behind the boat, Munro grabbed one of the Higgin's two guns and released a murderous burst of return fire, trying desperately to hold the enemy off until Marines could be taken aboard. Moments later he was mortally wounded. His crew, injured themselves, carried on until the last boat arrived and cleared the beach.

Munro maintained consciousness long enough to utter these last four words: "Did they get off?"

Assured that they had, he slowly closed his eyes and entered eternity. He died knowing he had successfully completed his last mission…
Just trying to keep the Fourth and all other patriotic celebrations in perspective…

Note: The photo is of Munro at age 3 and is from the Coast Guard’s site.


Sandra G. said...

We could all strive for such greatness.

Wishing you and your country the very best on this most important of National holidays.

Your friend and neighbor to the North,


Natalie said...

Thanks so much for publishing this! I made a post on my family blog about what I love about America. Feel free to stop by:

There are so many great people that have made this nation what it is, and there's so much greatness in being an American, it's a good motivator to me to be worthy of the land I live in.

Happy 4th of July!

Meadowlark said...

My first thanks is that you did not refer to them as "MOH winners". As you and I both know, you do not "win" a MOH, you are awarded it and become a recipient. So thanks.

Second thanks is for sharing this powerful story.

Third (but not a thanks, just an FYI) YoungSon enlisted in my beloved Corps on the 1st of July.1 I never knew I could be so proud... I thought I was proud when I earned the title, but this is a whole 'nother level. :)

Slamdunk said...

Thanks all.

ML: That is an important distincion--well said. Congrats on the news with your son. We owe so much to our veterans.

J. J. in Phila said...

Truly moving.

thewarriorpoets said...

Excellent post for such a day. I happened to see the tribue to Munro at the National Marine Corps Museum when I was there. Amazing story.

Cindy Beck said...

What a wonderful tribute! Thanks for posting it. Long may the flag of freedom wave.