When American Doughboys returned from their
bitter but victorious battles to liberate France in World War I
their commander General John J. Pershing noted, "Time shall
not dim the glory of their deeds." Following the end of a
second World War and while American soldiers continued their
valiant service in Vietnam, in the 1960s General Pershing's words
were inscribed at the entrance to a new football stadium in
Philadelphia, birthplace of our nation. That stadium was
officially named "Veterans Stadium" by the Philadelphia
City Council to honor the memory of the veterans of all wars.
Four decades later the Philadelphia Eagles
have moved on to newer facilities, Veterans Stadium stands empty,
and the words of General Pershing are seldom read. Though time can
not dim the glory of the deeds of those who have served to gain
and preserve our freedom, time certainly has dimmed the
remembrance of those deeds and the men and women who sacrificially
2001 Monty McDaniel watched the movie "Saving Private
Ryan" sparking thoughts of his uncle, Staff Sergeant Paul
Alexander, who was killed fighting during the Normandy Invasion.
Seeking out his uncle's grave Online he noted the letters
"DSC." Further research revealed those letters stood for
"Distinguished Service Cross," the highest award
presented by the U.S. Army and second only to the Medal of Honor.
It was NEWS to Alexander's family, none of who knew of the young
soldier's great heroism at the time he lost his life in battle.
After persistent research that took nearly a year McDaniel at last
found the citation for his uncle's award in the National Archives
and the medal was presented posthumously--50 years late--to
Alexander's surviving brothers and sisters. Paul Alexander's
parents died in the 1990s never knowing their son was one of the
5,000 soldiers of World War II to receive this high honor.
A post-script to Alexander's story is that,
upon receiving his uncle's General Order authorizing award of the
DSC, McDaniel noted that the award had also been authorized for
one other soldier who was killed at about the same time in France.
He initiated a search for the surviving relatives of Staff
Sergeant Lawrence Gunderson, found them, and learned the stories
were almost identical. Gunderson's parents died never knowing of
their son's high honor, which was finally awarded to surviving
family members half-a-century late. When Senator Mark Dayton
presented the award in 2002 the "Courier News" wrote,
"They never received or knew that their son had been awarded
the Distinguished Service Cross. His family might never have known
had it not been for a man from Indiana, Monty McDaniel." In
both cases, the glory of the deeds of these brave warriors had not
been diminished--only forgotten.
While such true heroes ARE forgotten by the
nation they served while written records of their deeds are
gathering dust in the basement of a forgotten Washington, D.C.
archive, wannabe heroes capture the attention of others with
self-promotional false claims of service, sacrifice, and heroics.
Last month alone dozens of phony heroes emerged in press reports.
In Topeka, Kansas, Tim Debusk was charged with using a forged
citation to obtain distinctive Purple Heart license plates
identifying him as a wounded warrior of the Global War on
Terrorism. In Fort Worth, Texas, David McClanahan used false
records showing he had received two Silver Stars, multiple Purple
Hearts, and a bogus letter from the White House indicating he had
been nominated for the Medal of Honor in order to obtain
scholarships, bank loans, and speaking engagements. In Cape Cod,
Massachusetts, the man at the forefront of a major state-wide bid
for a $1 billion casino was exposed as a fraud who lied to a
Congressional subcommittee about being a hero at the Battle of Khe
Sanh--which occurred while he was still attending high school.
That individual, Glenn Marshall, was also touted in press reports
as the recipient of the Silver Star and five Purple Hearts. His
exposure and subsequent investigation revealed the man was also
hiding a 20-year old rape conviction.
On September 21, 2007, in Seattle, the
Department of Veterans Affairs announced charges against eight men
who falsified military records to award themselves medals and hero
status, some of which then used that status to receive Veterans
benefits. Their fraud, based upon forged discharge paperwork and
award citations, cost the U.S. Government $1.4 million dollars.
Among the eight was one man, a resident alien, whose records
showed he served and was wounded in World War II while a member of
the famed "Flying Tigers." In fact the man had never
even served in any branch of military service.
The fraud perpetrated by these and scores of
others recently exposed and publicized in media reports is
possible because of failures in steps to properly preserve the
history of the deeds of our Nation's TRUE warriors. Twenty-first
century technology and the ability to manufacture deeds of glory
has given us more heroes than has combat, while that same
technology has been largely ignored as the tool to properly
document the history that is real. In September 2007 when it was
revealed that as many as one in three records in the Library of
Congress' Veterans History Project involved claims to awards
never earned, the library's director of communications Mr. Matt
Raymond told MSNBC it "would be impossible" to check
proffered oral histories for the legitimacy of claimed awards. No
existing database has ever been assimilated to record the deeds of
those who have served so valiantly through America's wars. The
records do exist, in archived General Orders at NARA, on cards in
the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. and at Marine Corps Headquarters
in Quantico, Virginia. These documents preserve in fading ink and
on yellowing paper the "glory of the deeds" of true
heroes, men and women whose valor and sacrifice should never be
allowed to deteriorate on aging media or become lost in piles of
unarchived papers, to thereby become lost in history.
President John F. Kennedy noted one month before his death in
1963, "A nation reveals itself not only by the men it
produces but also by the men it honors, the men it
Let us as a nation reveal ourselves as a
people that honors and remembers those who have given their best
to preserve our freedom, not just the generals and icons, but the
ordinary men who left everyday jobs to serve in defense of freedom
and, by their uncommon valor not only secured our freedom, but
recorded a legacy of valor to inspire generations in the future.
As webmaster for
HomeOfHeroes.com, my initial purpose when I launched this site in
1998 was to highlight the stories of Medal of Honor recipients, a
group of heroes who comprise fewer than 4,500 of the more than 40
million Americans who have served in uniform. In time, after
requests to expand, I undertook the daunting task of finding,
typing and making available citations for the awards second-only
to the Medal of Honor: The Distinguished Service Cross, Navy
Cross, and Air Force Cross. When I began that in 2001 I believed
it was an impossible dream and, 7 years later have surprised
myself with the fact that I have digitized and posted the
citations for more than 18,000 of the 24,00 awards (and hope to
complete this in 2008). At times I became myself discouraged but,
in those moments I received emails such as the following simple,
but brief exchange from a former Marine in Boston, Massachusetts: