In a time when many Hollywood stars served their country in the armed forces - often in rear-echelon posts where they were carefully protected - only to be trotted out to perform for the cameras in war bond promotions, Lee Marvin was a genuine hero. He won the Navy Cross at Iwo Jima. There is only one higher Naval award...the Medal Of Honor.
If that is a surprising comment on the true character of the man, he credits his sergeant with an even greater show of bravery. Dialog from "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson": His guest was Lee Marvin.
Johnny said, "Lee, I'll bet a lot of people are unaware that you were a Marine in the initial landing at Iwo Jima...and that during the course of that action you earned the Navy Cross and were severely wounded."
"Yeah, yeah... I got shot square in the bottom, and they gave me the Cross for securing a hot spot about halfway up Suribachi. Bad thing about getting shot up on a mountain is, guys getting shot hauling you down. But, Johnny, at Iwo I served under the bravest man I ever knew...
We both got the cross the same day, but what he did for his Cross
made mine look cheap in comparison. That dumb guy actually stood up on Red
beach and directed his troops to move forward and get the hell off the
beach. Bullets flying by, with mortar rounds landing everywhere, and he stood there as the main target of gunfire so that he could get his men to safety. He did this on more than one occasion because his men's safety was more important than his own life. That Sergeant and I have been lifelong friends. When they brought me off Suribachi, we passed the Sergeant and he lit a smoke and passed it to me, while lying on my belly on the litter, and he said, where'd they get you Lee? I said, Well Bob... if you make it home before me, tell Mom to sell the outhouse! Johnny, I'm not lying, Sergeant Keeshan was the bravest man I ever knew. The Sergeant's name is Bob Keeshan. You and the world know him as "Captain Kangaroo."
On another note, there was this wimpy little man on PBS, gentle and quiet. Mr. Rogers is another of those you would least suspect of being anything but what he now portrays to our youth. But Mr.Rogers was a U.S. Navy Seal, combat-proven in Vietnam with over twenty-five confirmed kills to his name. He wore a long-sleeved sweater on TV, to cover the many tattoos on his forearm and biceps. He was a master in small arms and hand-to-hand combat, able to disarm or kill in a heartbeat.
After the war Mr. Rogers became an ordained Presbyterian minister and therefore a pacifist. Vowing to never harm another human and also dedicating the rest of his life to trying to help lead children on the right path in life. He hid away the tattoos and his past life and won our hearts with his quiet wit and charm.
America's real heroes don't flaunt what they did; they quietly go about their day-to-day lives, doing what they do best. They earned our respect and the freedoms that we all enjoy. Look around and see if you can find one of those heroes in your midst.
Often, they are the ones you'd least suspect, but would most like to have on your side if anything ever happened. Take the time to thank anyone that has fought for our freedom. With encouragement they could be the next Captain Kangaroo or Mr. Rogers.