Uncommon Valor

Connie Moorhead, Class of 2018

At age nineteen, with two weeks left until he returned to the United States, my uncle was killed in action in Vietnam. The folded flag and his framed medals have been on display in the hallway of my parents’ house, along with a picture of his name on the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. I grew up hearing stories about the man I would never be able to meet, looking at those displays, and fantasizing about what he and the military must have been like. In those musings, I developed a deep-seated desire to join the military as an officer once I finished my education. Along the way, I built up in my head an idea of what it means to serve.

Last week, while digging for some paperwork in my mother’s desk, I discovered the official story behind my uncle’s Bronze Star. He was gravely wounded by an explosion, but refused medical treatment until the rest of his wounded squad mates received care. Unfortunately, during that time, my uncle succumbed to his wounds. Reading that story stirred up a well of emotions. I was proud of my uncle. I felt strongly the pain that my father and his family felt from his loss, a pain that broke up my grandparents’ marriage. I also felt profoundly curious. What would drive a dying man to turn away a chance at living? The brotherhood and camaraderie of the military is no secret to civilians, but I do not think most of us have any idea what that truly means. When I read the story of how my uncle died, I got a glimpse of the truth and meaning behind those concepts.

Now, I have fully thrown my efforts behind joining the military as a JAG lawyer in the Marine Corps. I want to serve like he served and give back to my brothers and sisters in arms. I want to carry on his legacy of selflessness. But my uncle is not alone in his valor and gallantry. Invoking the sentiments of Admiral Nimitz, “Uncommon valor is a common virtue for those in serving in the military.” Veterans Day is that special time of year to honor the service-members who so bravely sacrifice for this country, but we should all be aware of and thankful for them every day of the year.

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