On the Backs of Courageous Men

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On the Backs of Courageous Men

Throughout history, great ideas have become reality because of the efforts of courageous people.  America is one of those ideas.  This “freedom experiment” that so many of us call home would have been little more than a wild scheme from the lips of half-drunken activists in a colonial pub were it not for courage.  Courage took this wild scheme and birthed a resistance, a rebellion and then a revolution. Courage then endured the tireless work that it took to deliberate, debate and finally make a Declaration. That was only the beginning.  The rest of America’s story is fraught with the undermining efforts of factions that seek to oppress, exclude and repossess the blessings of liberty from its rightful heirs. And of course, it was Courage that stepped up and stood in the gap to defend all that was so pricey to obtain. Courage and Freedom are inextricably tied. Millions of courageous moments have compounded to form the freedom that is the United States.  Here’s just one story about Charles Rush, Darcy’s stepfather from Extreme Grandparenthood:

“When I think of inspirational courage, I think of a man named Charles Rush. When I first met him, he had recently retired as a Captain from a career in the Navy. Charlie was a senior at the United States Naval Academy when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. His orders came the next day to ship out to the South Pacific. He served in World War II as a lieutenant on three different submarines.   That was the past. That was ancient history. That’s where he figured whatever he did was supposed to stay. But that’s not what the Navy thought. You see, it turns out that Charles Rush was an unusually courageous young lieutenant during the war. Over 60 years ago, about midway through World War II, Charles Rush was on the USS Billfish, patrolling the Makassar Strait, when three Japanese destroyers discovered their submarine. Submarines are fairly easy to sink once you’ve located them. Technically, they are already “sunk.” You just have to fill them with water. The destroyers immediately set up a grid to crisscross the sea and drop depth charges over the submarine’s location. The first three they dropped blasted against the hull of the sub, knocking over drums of acid, cracking pipes, breaking seals, and creasing the external fuel ballast tanks.   With the streak of diesel fuel to follow, the Japanese destroyers just kept pounding away on them—relentlessly and without mercy for the next nine hours. The executive officer was badly injured by the acid and was put under sedation in his bunk. Lt. Rush went to the engine room and found the crew already resigned to their impending death. He immediately took charge of the situation. The men found his courage inspiring and quickly responded to his calm and confident resolve. Together they fought the leaks and worked to keep the batteries dry and the engines going. Meanwhile, the depth charges kept dropping.   After several hours of desperately working to keep the submarine from sinking, Lt. Rush went to the conning tower to see if he was needed. That’s when he saw the real problem they were facing. The captain of the submarine was almost comatose with fear. He was giving no orders, no one was at the helm, and the submarine had been simply tripping along, an easy target for the destroyers up above.   He asked for permission to take over the con. The captain refused. Realizing how desperate the situation was, Lt. Rush pleaded with his cowardly captain for permission to take control of their plight. Finally the captain relinquished the control and Lt. Rush immediately found a helmsman, ordered the submarine below crush depth and then—using an instrument that had been marking their path, reversed their course, charted a mirror image of where they had been, and escaped by slipping out under the trail of fuel they had been leaving. Nine hours after it had all began, Lt. Rush and the men of the Billfish escaped from the destroyers into the night. They immediately surfaced and got clean air back into the submarine and were able to recharge their batteries. Eventually they were able to return to their port in Australia.   The men of the Billfish always wondered why Lt. Rush was never decorated for his bravery. They all believed he had single-handedly saved their lives. A half a century had to go by before the mystery was solved. That’s when the Freedom of Information Act required that the records of the war be opened up to be viewed by all. And that’s when his fellow submariners found out that their former captain, the man who had caved under the stress of battle and had served them up to the enemy, had falsified his ship’s log.   They quietly petitioned the Department of the Navy to investigate. It took them ten years to uncover the truth and right a wrong. And just after the turn of the century they called Charles Rush back to the Naval Academy, where he had been a student so long ago, and before a gathering of his remaining former shipmates, dignitaries, and friends, they awarded him the Navy Cross, the highest honor the Navy can bestow on one of their own.”   Excerpt from Extreme Grandparenthood by, Dr. Tim and Darcy Kimmel

  Happy Independence Day!

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