So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near to God is Man,
When Duty whispers low, "Thou must",
The Youth replies, "I can."
As a general rule, if a poem does not contain a geographical reference to Nantucket, then I have likely never read it nor heard of it. Years ago, reading one of Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation" books, I came across that little piece of Emerson. I have had it written on a small yellow Post-It and affixed to my computer in my office ever since.
In fairness, Emerson's words speak not of all youth but of those among our young people who are exceptional. Such as those who comprised Mr. Brokaw's favorite generation. I wish I could - upon reflecting on the trajectory of my youth - speak to my inclusion in Emerson's honor roll. Maybe if I had a clearer recollection of those years I could. Then again, I suspect not.
Charles P. Murray was only twenty-three years old, and a Lieutenant in the United States Army, on December 16, 1944. According to the Washington Post, Murray had only a few months of combat experience when on that day almost seventy years ago, he displayed “supreme courage and heroic initiative”. As much as I wish I could take credit for characterizing what he did in that way, I cannot. It is but a portion of what appears on the Citation for his Medal of Honor. I implore you to take a minute or two, click on the link to his MOH Citation, and read what he did. It is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Lieutenant Murray's contributions to the well-being of his brothers in arms as well as those of us he never met were not limited to that day or to World War II. By the time he retired from the U.S. Army in 1973, he was a Colonel. In addition to his service in World War II, he also served in Korea and in Vietnam. His personal honor roll included not just the Medal of Honor but also three Silver Stars and two Bronze Stars.
Colonel Charles P. Murray, Jr. died on August 12, 2011. He was eighty-nine years old. He is survived by his wife to whom he had been married for sixty-eight year, two of their three children and a whole boatload of grandkids and great-grandkids. According to www.homeofheroes.com Colonel Murray is the third Medal of Honor recipient to die in 2011.
In the Washington Post piece on his death, the writer closed with the following:
In an interview last year with a South Carolina newspaper, Col. Murray downplayed his bravery at age 23. “I was old, compared to a lot of those 18- and 19-year-old kids in the division,” he said.
He was wrong of course. He was not old. None of them were. Yet they did what they did. And if asked, all would likely tell you that none of them did anything out of the ordinary. It was just the way things were done. The path less-traveled. The way of the hero.
There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
Kudos my hero
Leaving all the best
you know my hero
The one that's on