I'm going to do something I've never done before. I'm going to cross-post this piece (with revisions where useful) from my baseball blogbecause to me, this is the absolutely appropriate kind of intersection between politics, sports, and patriotism.
Monday night, having conceded defeat to the 217 degree temperatures here in Big Town, I stayed home and watched the Mets-Reds game on television instead of in person. At mid-game, I saw my friend Kevin Burkhardt of SNY do a seemingly typical Independence Day interview. Another friend suddenly popped up on my screen.
Kevin was interviewing MSNBC analyst Jack Jacobs, who is usually a part of the Mets' commendable but never over-the-top salutes to our military heroes. He's part of them not just because he's a Brooklyn kid, and media-savvy, and a baseball fan, but because he is truly one of those heroes.
I've known Jack Jacobs for seven years or so. When I returned to my television news job, he was already there, one of what was then a flock of "military analysts." The analysts program would prove to have some serious ethical breaches but several of the men proved themselves well above and beyond such standards, and Jack was one of them. He could be analytical about the mechanics of war and strategy, he was skeptical about the interaction of politics and war, and he was unafraid to criticize bad judgements whether they were in the field or in Washington, or at the anchor desk.
At some point early in our acquaintanceship, I happened to hear - not from Jack, mind you - that he was one of what is still less than 3500 Americans to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Given the circumstances of the interview, one would be tempted to analogize this to membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame, except given the millions of men who have fought for this nation, the ratio is wildly inappropriate. It might be closer to the Military parallel for a Perfect Game. Or maybe two of them.
Only ninety of the recipients are still living. Ninety. Thus it is, perhaps, like bumping into Sandy Koufax in the office and he's joking about your tie or his shoes.
Whenever I see Jack in a public setting (I know him too well to do this when I bump into him in the office, because he's always got some funky word-game going on, and invariably, and inexplicably, calls me "Doctor") I am always reminded to go and re-read Jack's Medal of Honor citation. It invariably gives me chills, and it invariably reads like something out of your worst nightmare, or some kind of science fiction.
We always talk about "remembering the troops every day of the year" and the week following the 4th of July is the perfect time to put that into practice. Read it, here or at the source,and then let me tell you one more thing about my friend Jack:
JACOBS, JACK H.
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, U.S. Army Element, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Republic of Vietnam. Place and date: Kien Phong Province, Republic of Vietnam, 9 March 1968. Entered service at: Trenton, N.J. Born: 2 August 1945, Brooklyn, N.Y. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Jacobs (then 1st Lt.), Infantry, distinguished himself while serving as assistant battalion advisor, 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division, Army of the Republic of Vietnam. The 2d Battalion was advancing to contact when it came under intense heavy machine gun and mortar fire from a Viet Cong battalion positioned in well fortified bunkers. As the 2d Battalion deployed into attack formation its advance was halted by devastating fire. Capt. Jacobs, with the command element of the lead company, called for and directed air strikes on the enemy positions to facilitate a renewed attack. Due to the intensity of the enemy fire and heavy casualties to the command group, including the company commander, the attack stopped and the friendly troops became disorganized. Although wounded by mortar fragments, Capt. Jacobs assumed command of the allied company, ordered a withdrawal from the exposed position and established a defensive perimeter. Despite profuse bleeding from head wounds which impaired his vision, Capt. Jacobs, with complete disregard for his safety, returned under intense fire to evacuate a seriously wounded advisor to the safety of a wooded area where he administered lifesaving first aid. He then returned through heavy automatic weapons fire to evacuate the wounded company commander. Capt. Jacobs made repeated trips across the fire-swept open rice paddies evacuating wounded and their weapons. On 3 separate occasions, Capt. Jacobs contacted and drove off Viet Cong squads who were searching for allied wounded and weapons, single-handedly killing 3 and wounding several others. His gallant actions and extraordinary heroism saved the lives of 1 U.S. advisor and 13 allied soldiers. Through his effort the allied company was restored to an effective fighting unit and prevented defeat of the friendly forces by a strong and determined enemy. Capt. Jacobs, by his gallantry and bravery in action in the highest traditions of the military service, has reflected great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
That 'one more thing?' I don't think Jack will be upset if I mention this. As you picture him dodging bullets to repeatedly carry other men across his back, you need to have the full picture. I believe I may be generous in estimating Jack Jacobs' height at about 5'8". That's Colonel Jack Jacobs, thank you. And 5'8" goes a long way in the clutch.
As ever, Jack, thank you.