This thread was started years before I joined ATS, so I was not aware of it until an update today. I would like to contribute the most heroic action in wartime of someone I personally know.
I am good friends with a Vietnam era Navy SeaBee (Construction Battalion member). I'll just call him FL. He does not grandstand, he only said it was
in his heart to do this without thinking, and only after I asked him about his experiences.
Stationed off the Vietnam coast awaiting his first combat zone deployment, a fire broke out on the USS Kitty Hawk. There were US Marines in that
section of the ship, who were down and suffocating. FL grabbed two respirators, climbed into the hold, and immediately found two men down, but alive.
He placed the extra respirator on one of the Marines, then shouldered the other and climbed up the ladder with him.
After he arrived topside, he got the Marine to fresh air, then went to retrieve another respirator. He was attempting to go into the hold again to
retrieve the other man, but was stopped by a superior officer and told to seal the hatch. He knew the man was alive and waiting for him, so he had the
most difficult decision of his life: to disobey and save the man, or obey his superior. He complied with the officer.
He knows that the officer's priority was to keep the fire from spreading, but has had many feelings of horror and guilt knowing that the Marine was
expecting him to return.
Running into a fire is one of the most unnatural things for anyone to do, as is running into machinegun fire, or jumping on a grenade. FL did it once
and survived, and is haunted because he couldn't do it again to save another remaining man.
I don't believe one has to die to be a hero. He received a Meritorius Service award for his actions.
As a public servant in his post-war career (not a firefighter), he again went into a burning home to save an old drunk from burning. Afterward the
drunk was saying "why didn't you just let me die?".
IMO he was seeking some relief from the memory of what happened when he had to seal the hatch.
edit: Construction Batallion, not Combat...)
[edit on 24-3-2010 by 1SawSomeThings]