The VigilanceVoice

July 6, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 297
Heroes Come & Go--
Some Last Forever

Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, July 6--Heroes come and go, swept into history by the winds of time and change.  But some stick forever.    

       The Spartans of Vigilance, 2500 years ago, live.   They guard the pass at Thermopylae against Terrorism, preserved in a famous Greek poem.
       On September 11, 2001, 3,000 such heroes died--victims of a sneak attack on American soil, the "Dawn of Terrorism," the "Birth of Vigilance."  
       And this past Friday, July 5, one day after the 226th anniversary of America's independence, another great hero died.  His name is Ted Williams.
       But this isn't a baseball story of a man known for a ferocious bat, the last man to bat .400 and perhaps the greatest hitter in baseball history.
       It's the story of a hero--a Citizen of Vigilance, a Father of Vigilance, a Grandfather of Vigilance.    

      Yesterday, at the River-to-River New York Pops concert in Battery Park at the tip of Lower Manhattan, Skitch Henderson led the famous orchestra in a series of patriotic songs.   The emcee was Mark McEwen, weatherman and reporter for CBS Morning show.   In a tribute to what a hero is, he defined one as "the person who is running into the burning building to save people as others are running out."
        Ted Williams was that kind of hero.
        He faced two September 11ths.   In each case he ran into the burning buildings while others ran out, or, didn't run at all.
        A baseball player of his stature has a million strings at his disposal.  He could pull any one at any time and get about anything he wanted--especially pulling the one that would keep him safe from the jaws of death.

           But, in keeping with his Courage, Conviction and Right Action, Ted Williams walked into the "Jaws of Death," in both World War II and Korea.   He chose to risk his life to secure the principles of Freedom rather than hide behind a bat and an athletic career that offered him fame, fortune and ultimate personal safety.
        The Hall of Famer missed three full seasons of baseball, which surely would have boosted his massive hitting record of 2,654.  He chose instead to be a Navy fighter pilot, daily putting his life and athletic career on the line for his belief in something far more powerful than a baseball.

         That was the first time he ran into a burning building, but not his last.
        When the Korean War broke out, he returned to the Terrorist Zone, donning this time the uniform of my alma matter, a U.S. Marine fighter pilot.   He missed most of two seasons while flying 39 missions.  His plane was hit by enemy fire on one early mission and he barely escaped a fiery crash-landing.      

        Ted Williams was much like the FDNY Fire Lieutenant Bob LaRocco, of Ladder Company 9, who was buried in the collapse of the first World Trade Center building.   As the building collapsed, thirty people died around LaRocco.  He dug himself out of the rubble.   Instead of protecting himself from more harm,  LaRocco bulldogged his way to the remaining building to help in that battle and barely escaped death when it also collapsed.
        Williams and LaRocco are teammates in the hero category.   Both knew "batting practice" was about preparing one's constitution for the real fight--staving off the Fear, Intimidation and Complacency that makes some run one way, and others run to help those at peril.  The mark of champions is always the power to overcome the fear that drives others away.

    Williams' last 'at bat' hitting homerun

          I'm personally not a baseball fan.  My wife is.  When she was seven she saw Ted Williams play at Fenway Park.  He could have bought me a cup of coffee and I'd never recognize him--not for his baseball heroics, that is.
          But I'm sure I would have known him as a Marine of Vigilance.   There's something special in the eyes of a person.  It's a spark, glow from within, as though the Torch of Vigilance was burning in his or her soul, signaling the willingness to give ones life for a higher cause that most, who don't understand such a desire, consider whimsical illusions.  They are blind to such sparks because they never chose to stand up for anything beyond their own selfish needs.

           One example of the blind is the guy who filed the lawsuit to blast "Under God" as being "unconstitutional."   In America, a person has the right to protest about anything.   But this guy isn't a hero--he's just the opposite.  He's selfishly trying to destroy the principle of the "Higher Order," that which stands above all men and women, a universal power, a non-religious entity that represents Good-Orderly-Direction (G-O-D), directing human endeavor toward a goal of selfless human compassion.   Rather than risk his life to defend the freedoms of belief in something far greater than ourselves, this man seeks to set fires on the beliefs which ordain the ideals of "faith" in something larger than man or woman, in some universal compass that provides the power of good over evil, right over wrong, just over unjust.  
        While in some camps, people cheer this man who attacks the "Under God" principles and call him a hero, he hardly fits the bill.  Heroes risk everything to attain their status as heroes, but this man risks nothing and seeks everything..  He is fleeing the burning buildings, not rushing into them.   He is as selfish as the man who knocks over the old lady to escape the flames.  He has no "higher calling" because his beliefs are to rip such Hope in the "unknown"  from the hands of the children--to take their Pledge and rip away certain words that stand for something above and beyond human frailty, and then, when he's finished with that, his intention is to blow up the words on American currency that state:  "In God We Trust."   No, he's far from a hero of the LaRocco or Ted Williams league.  He fits much better in the Osama bin Laden league.

        I put Mohammad Ali (Cassius Clay) up in the Ted Williams and Bob LaRocco category.  At the peak of his career, Ali chose to be a Warrior of Vigilance and risk everything.  He refused to fight in a war he didn't believe in.    But he didn't run from the flames.   He paid the price.  He didn't box in the brightness of his peak years, choosing instead to sacrifice his World Champion Crown for his convictions.   He displayed the Courage, Conviction and took the Right Action heroes are made of.  Others might have pulled strings or found some safe haven so they could retain both their athletic career as well as appease critics.    Ali stood on the high ground, fighting for his beliefs at great risk to himself, just as Ted Williams or Lt. LaRocco did when he crawled from one crumbling building to put himself at risk in yet another.

      Men of Vigilance, Women of Vigilance, will never be lost in the pages of history.    Like those Spartans at Thermopylae some two millenniums ago, they will forever be remembered not because of the hitting records, or the boxing championships, or just because of being a fireman--but because they crawled into the Jaws of Terror, willingly putting their lives on the line for their beliefs.   None of the real heroes of the earth sought anything from their actions, and all put something higher than themselves above their own personal security.  That "something" is a concept the man who is trying to destroy the foundations of "In God We Trust" will never understand. 
          The winds of time will bury his battle in the dust of insignificance, but the Soldiers of Vigilance like Ted Williams, Mohammad Ali, and Lt. LaRocco will live timelessly.
         So will all those who become Citizens of Vigilance, Parents of Vigilance, Loved Ones of Vigilance.   They will recognize the power of the "higher order," the conviction one has to put the children of the world before any other human selfish desire.   Only when we see that heroes are made, not born, will we realize that each of us can become the greatest hero in the world in the eyes of our children and loved ones when we put their Emotional and Physical security before our own.    And the Pledge of Vigilance is one of the first steps in that direction.
        Be a Hero of Vigilance.   Take the Pledge today.

Go To July 5--Machine Guns, Bomb Dogs & Macy's 4th Of July Fireworks    

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