I had never heard of “Chesty Puller” until reading this piece just now, but it sounds like a film needs to be made, here:
Enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1918 he would serve until 1955, rising in rank from private to lieutenant general. Throughout his career he led from the front, never asking his men to go where he would not go. For his courage he was five times awarded the navy cross, a silver star, a distinguished service cross, and a bronze star with a v for valor, along with numerous other decorations. In World War II and Korea he became a symbol of the courage that Marines amply displayed in both conflicts.
His fourth navy cross citation details why the Marines under his command would have followed him in an attack on Hades if he had decided to lead them there [. . .] Stories began to cluster about him. When he was first shown a flame thrower he supposedly asked, “Where do you mount the bayonet?” Advised that his unit was surrounded he replied: “All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time.” On an inspection tour of a Marine unit he became exasperated at the lack of spirit he saw and finally said,”Take me to the Brig. I want to see the real Marines!”
During the Chosin campaign in Korea when the Marines were fighting their way to the coast through several Communist Chinese corps he captured the tactical situation succinctly: “Retreat! Hell, we’re just attacking in a different direction.” Little surprise that Marine Drill Instructors at Parris Island will have their boots sing good night to Chesty Puller some four decades after his death.
A hero and a genuine character; we need more of those in an era seeking to redefine heroes by degrees of blandness. I want to know more! Learning about a hero seems like a good way to start the new year!
But I am very sure that a former pastor of mine, a lifelong Military Chaplain who served in Iraq and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf, and the great Navy Chaplain (Rear-Admiral), Cardinal John Joseph O’ Connor, would be quick to credit many non-Catholic chaplains with heroic service.