“Courage” starts with a critically wounded soldier in a battle in the highlands of “VietNam” on Nov. 11, 1967.
It claims the commanding officer ordered “MedEvac” helicopters away because of the intensity of enemy fire.
Then, the piece milks the heartstrings of the reader with the wounded soldier’s thoughts of his family 12,000 miles away being returned to reality by sounds of an approaching Huey helicopter.
The story continues and introduces Capt. Ed Freeman, the pilot of the Huey who rescued not only this soldier but also 29 others while risking his crew and aircraft to enemy fire and also being wounded.
It concludes with the statement that Medal of Honor recipient Capt. Freeman, of the United States Air Force, died at the age of 70 in Boise, Idaho, and that our news media apparently failed to acknowledge this hero’s passing as they focused attention on the death of Michael Jackson and the philandering of Tiger Woods.
Today, we frequently encounter such heart-wrenching stories, and this is a good thing.
Because I am a Vietnam veteran, fond of history and a hack of a freelance writer, there were some things that jumped off my screen to suggest “Courage” was inaccurate.
My first clue was the writing style, where contractions like “don’t” were all written like “don ‘ t,” with a space before and after the apostrophe.
Another was the 12,000-mile error. Measured from the la Drang battle site to the most distant portion of the United States, Key West, Fla., the maximum possible distance is slightly less than 9,700 miles.
Then there was the error that Capt. Freeman was in the United States Air Force, when all combat Hueys in Vietnam were flown by Army personnel, with the small exception of Air America Huey pilots.
Another error is the fact that Capt. Freeman performed his rescue mission Nov. 14, 1965, and not Nov. 11, 1967, several years after the battle had concluded.
Additionally, the battle occurred in the la Drang river valley in South Vietnam at an altitude more than 725 feet above sea level — definitely not the “highlands,” a common expression of the time for the mountainous regions of Vietnam typically to the west of Hanoi, the then-capital of North Vietnam.
Also, Vietnam is the correct spelling of the country, not “VietNam.”
The commanding officer at the battlefront did not order the helicopters away — they refused to land. Instead, he asked for volunteers, and Capt. Freeman, who had delivered troops to the landing zone, volunteered to return and extract them.
Finally, retired Army captain and Medal of Honor recipient Ed Freeman died at age 80 in Boise, Idaho, not age 70.
The writer of “Courage” apparently had a different agenda and really didn’t know what he was taking about, as substantiated by the incorrect usage of “MedEvac,” which is always represented as “medevac” (for medical evacuation).
But it became clear with the last line, “I bet you didn’t hear about this hero’s passing, but we’ve sure seen a whole bunch about Michael Jackson and Tiger Woods.”
The Tiger Woods affair hit the headlines Nov. 27, 2009, one year and three months after Capt. Freeman died.
Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, 10 months after Capt. Freeman’s death.
Also, Capt. Freeman’s death made all the national newspapers.
He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush on July 16, 2001. In March 2009, Congress named the post office in his hometown in Mississippi the Major Ed W. Freeman Post Office. He was depicted in the movie “We Were Soldiers” by actor Mark McCracken. Books have been written about him, and national media interviews were also conducted with him.
What more could have been done to bring his name to national attention is speculative at best, but to exploit his name is simply wrong.
To use a veteran and a Medal of Honor recipient to make statements is wrong. It shows disrespect to all who have served honorably for their country — with some having paid the ultimate price for their service — and all freedom-loving Americans.
This weekend, instead of entertaining yourselves, please take the time to appropriately honor our war dead and remaining living veterans for the sacrifices they have made for you.
• Dave Hardesty, a satellite communications engineer for Lockheed Martin and former Tracy parks and community services commissioner, is among a select group of local residents with columns in the Tracy Press.