20, 2002—Ground Zero Plus
The Duty Of
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, July 20--Duty! It's a big
It implies, no, it demands a service beyond
It requires one to think of others first,
to put the self in the copilot's seat. Or, way back in the passenger
Duty is a word lost in a world of selfish
demands--the "me first" theory overwhelms the one of "duty," which puts
"you" or "us" or "we" or "them" first.
The executives at Enron, WorldCom, Imclone
forgot about their fiduciary duty to their stockholders, to their
employees, to the children who admire business and stuffed their pockets
with the gold of others.
The Terrorists who attacked the World Trade
Center, Pentagon, and the thwarted flight heading for Washington D.C.
forgot their duty to civilization, to the evolution of peace and security
for the children.
Parents who have little time to sit with
their children and find out their Fears, Intimidations and
Complacencies, and are too concerned with their own "problems" to help
their children overcome the struggles of self worth, have forgotten their
duty to not only their children, but their children's children's children.
Priests who molest the young abandon their
duty to stand as spiritual icons. Police who brutalize
prisoners with broomsticks demean the duty to hold the color of blue in a
higher order, to protect it from soil.
The men or women walking down the street,
engaging in loud conversation, and throwing around the "F" word as though
they were in a locker room, neglecting the fact their language falls upon
the children's ears nearby, or the other citizens who may be offended by
their language, forget their duty of respect.
The clerk at the store who frowns and
doesn't smile or wish the customer a good day despite the aching feet,
tired back, and weary, endless lines of people forgets the "duty of
service," the opportunity to express appreciation for the spending of
one's hard-earned money in a particular store.
The woman who seeks an abortion
denies the duty of motherhood. The man who agrees to it,
perverts his duty as a father.
It is such a massive undertaking,
almost onerous for some who have no training in its meaning, have not
tested its endurance in their lives, does not know the joy of its
Years ago when I joined the U.S. Marine
Corps as a young, idealistic man, I sought the meaning of duty.
I was trained to give my life for others, to believe the highest duty I
could render was dying for my country, for the preservation of a slippery
ideal so often twisted and convoluted by the critics. That
ideal was "freedom," the ultimate right of choice over one's destiny, not
dictated by others, but a guarantee given to all who live within a
structure that fosters free choice, free speech, free enterprise.
My duty was measured by my
willingness to die for my comrades--to crawl into a hail of bullets and
drag a dead wounded Marine to safety, even if it meant giving up my own
life. I understand that duty well. I performed it more
than once. I know the sound of its calling, and the elation of
my willingness to sacrifice myself for its honor.
That's why I understand the duty of
those bold and courageous men and women on September 11 who rushed into
the burning World Trade Center to save others. The
thought of self came second to the security of others.
It is hard to explain. It is
even harder to endure sometimes when selfishness grips ones soul, and
survival drives one to run from the responsibility of duty.
Vigilance is all about duty.
That's why it is hard for many to
It is about acting in ways that protect the
children's children's children. It is generational in shape
and form, extending beyond the scope of one's own well being, larger than
one's own character defects.
The young girl who was abducted, raped and
killed in Stanton, California knew her duty. At five years old, she
knew enough to scream and kick and bite and kick as the stranger grabbed
her from the front yard and dragged her into his car.
She fought for her life and lost as the other children looked on.
She was Vigilant to her death, a tribute to her understanding of the duty
of protection. No one knows for sure, but her screaming and
kicking and biting the abductor might have saved the other children,
warned them, driven them away from the abductor who might have taken
another child. One thing is
for sure, Samantha knew her duty--to fight for her life.
Duty is not an acquired trait.
It is part of our gene pool. It makes us able to give our
lives so others might live.
My older daughter a few years ago was in
El Salvador, living with peasants near a river. She was part of a
group of people who had come to live with the villagers so the El
Salvadorian government wouldn't massacre them. The
villagers wanted their land back and squatted on it as part of a "land
take" where by possessing their former lands taken from them, they might
El Salvadorian army units surrounded the
villagers and arrested all the observers, five of them, from different
countries. They put them in trucks and hauled them away.
They tried to grab my daughter, but the village women formed a circle
around her, concerned she would be victimized by the machine-gun carrying
soldiers whose reputation for rape, torture and killing sent chills
They created a knot of human bodies around her in
the middle of the jungle, protecting her from arms reaching in to grab her,
staring down the barrels of pistols and rifles pointing at them.
They were the Mothers of Vigilance that day, risking their lives for a
girl not part of their family, but who had become as important to them as
their own children.
It comes to life under pressure, but it sits at the
ready like an eagle hovering high in the sky, ready to swoop down whenever
it is needed. Those who understand Vigilance understand
duty. They are those who willing to risk their personal
selfishness for the safety and security of others, especially for the
children. They do not set off bombs that kill innocent people,
they do not fly airplanes into buildings intending to massacre the
population. Those who think killing the innocent act out of
some "duty" pervert the principle of duty. They use it as an
excuse to justify their own selfish quest for glory. A suicide
bomber, for example, seeks glorification for his or her actions, and
operates not out of duty but out of greed.
That's why I fell in love with the movie, K-19.
It was a movie about "duty."
Peeling back the onion, the film showed the
relationship of men under pressure when their submarine encountered a
deadly radiation leak.
It has taken nearly three decades for the story to come
to the surface, but the power of the story is timeless. It will
survive through eons, for it an odyssey of human responsibility to one
another and to the world.
The main character of the story is duty
itself--duty to politics, to a nation, to the world, to a team, to each other.
If every parent took his or her children to see
the movie and then discussed the principles of duty that are revealed in
the film, a powerful result would occur. Everyone would learn
about the principle of "sacrifice."
In the final analysis, the Russian crew faced
many dilemmas. One was their crippled submarine could set off
a thermonuclear war. The result would be devastating not only
for Russia, but for the entire globe. The decisions they make
are selfless decisions, dutiful decisions that transcend politics and
human differences, and spread over the generations.
Another critical point was the duty to one's
country. The tension created in the film was so powerful one
could do nothing but salute both the scripting and direction of the
decisions made in this respect--for the commander was caught in a vice,
squeezed between the choice of saving his crew and surrendering his highly
secret, advanced warship to the "enemy."
Then there was the duty to each other, to the
whole of the crew. This is where the movie shined the
brightest. The power of its message was incredible.
Parents sitting through the film with their children would find hours of
discussions about the duty to one's "family" an insatiable topic.
How the crew resolves the question of duty, and the Fears, Intimidation
and Complacencies they face are outstanding.
I found K-19 a Film of Vigilance.
There are no words I could write that would honor
it. It is something one must see and think through to appreciate.
In a world that seems so selfish to a child, with
all the seeming horror and devastation going on, K-19 refreshes one's
sense of human qualities. It makes the spine of humanity stand
taller and prouder. Another reason to be proud of the making of such a
movie is that one percent of the box office proceeds is designated to be
given to the widows and survivor's families.
If Vigilance is what I propose--the sum of
Courage, Conviction and Right Action--then the movie K-19 is perhaps the
best visual presentation of Vigilance I have ever seen. And if
Terrorism is the sum of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency, then one won't
be disappointed for the lack of it. The film is full of
Terrorism, of both the Emotional and Physical variety. It is
how these men overcome the Terror of their situation that makes the movie
a masterful study of Vigilance.
If you wonder why the world is in
trouble, consider this. Perhaps we all need to reinforce the
principles of duty in our minds, and share them with our children.
If we do, and we use K-19 as a model, the world may change from one of
Terrorism to one of Vigilance.
See K-19 for the best definition of it.
Go To July 19--The "V" Of Vigilance
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