For as long as I draw breath, I will not understand how heroes rise to the challenges that confront them while their lives are in dire peril.
I just read four letters that one hero wrote home. He talked about facing an enemy intent on killing him and his buddies. He said he never wanted to be a hero. However, he accepted that those who believe he is a hero wanted to treat him as such.
You’ve heard the name Audie Murphy. He died in 1971 at a young age in a plane crash. He led a troubled life after earning the Medal of Honor near the end of World War II. The Medal of Honor citation tells how he single-handedly silenced a Nazi German armored unit and saved the town of Holzwihr, France; the town honors Murphy annually, saluting the exploits he delivered to the people of that tiny town on the France-Germany border.
In and Around Magazine published the letters that Murphy wrote home to his family and friends in Farmersville, Texas — which also stages an annual Audie Murphy Day. Full disclosure: I write freelance articles for the company that publishes In and Around Magazine. It is not entirely clear to me that Murphy actually lived in Farmersville, but the dog tags the Army issued to him engraved Farmersville as his hometown. That is good enough for those who live there today.
What is so striking to me as I read the letters (the link I attached to this blog post will enable you to read them, too) is the overarching humility that Murphy expresses. He wrote this in one of his missives: “I’d rather return to the Colmar pocket in France than face another ‘welcome home’ or review another parade.” He continued, “But you can’t say ‘no’ to people who are honoring you and I appreciate all that has been done for me.”
In another letter home, Murphy writes that “there are a lot of things that can make a man brave. Wanting to go back to Texas, lack of sleep, anger, disgust, discomfort and hate — those things won me my medals, and they’ve won medals for many other guys. There are fellows over there who wanted to come home more than anything else who will never get back. Those are those guys who should get the medals, not me.”
We’ll be celebrating Veterans Day soon. Audie Murphy isn’t around to receive the tributes he deserves to this day. My sense is that he wouldn’t want to be bask in the “glory” of what likely was the worst day of his life.
Audie Murphy personified heroism in its finest form. Circumstances found him, which is the way it goes for those who earn the title of “hero.”