Fraidoon "Fred" Akhtari

2017-07-17 

What do you if you’re a citizen of a country where your own countrymen perpetrate atrocities on your own people? In the case of Afghanistan, where the Taliban and Al Qaeda have visited atrocities upon the Afghan people, one option is to flee. That’s what hundreds of thousands of Afghans have done.

Of course, another option is to stand and fight against the people you revile. That’s a much more difficult decision to make. If you stay, then you become a very large target for the enemy. Fraidoon Akhtari stayed and fought and, in the process, put a Taliban crosshair on himself.

The following story was released by Fox News on July 17, 2017. It speaks of brotherhood, courage, sacrifice, and humanity. It is appalling that it took so long for the United States to do the right thing by Fraidoon Akhtari and his family. Every day that our government did nothing to help Akhtari was a day when his life was in danger. I am thrilled that this story had a happy ending. I encourage you to watch Jennifer Griffin’s news story at the link below and to share this story with your friends. Fraidoon Akhtari is an Everyday Hero who saved American lives.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/07/17/us-soldiers-welcome-afghan-translator-who-saved-their-life-see-tearful-reunion.html

 Everyday Hero: Humbert Roque Versace

2017-06-01

There are so many stories that inspire us. But Humbert Roque Versace’s is one for the ages. It’s a story that is particularly appropriate on Memorial Day. It’s a story that should amaze you and cause you to wonder where men like Versace come from and what makes them do the things they do.

When I was at the U.S. Army Special Warfare School at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina in 1971 with orders to Vietnam, I heard the story about Nick Rowe, a legend in Special Forces lore. But we weren’t told that “Rocky” Versace was also a captive of the Viet Cong at the same time. We weren’t told about Versace’s experiences as a captive or that he’d been executed by the Viet Cong. Knowing Versace’s story today, you have to wonder why it took nearly four decades for him to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Politics surely played a role in the delay of that award.

As you read President George W. Bush’s comment at the Medal of Honor ceremony, consider what Rocky Versace did in the face of inhuman, brutal treatment. Consider how he conducted himself knowing that his behavior would reap the whirlwind from his captors. Consider how his conduct saved the lives of many others.  But most importantly consider what a man like Humbert Roque Versace could have accomplished in life had he survived hell in Vietnam and been able to contribute to our country.

President Bush (July 8, 2002, 3:07 P.M. EDT): “Good afternoon, and welcome to the White House. It's a -- this is a special occasion. I am honored to be a part of the gathering as we pay tribute to a true American patriot, and a hero, Captain Humbert "Rocky" Versace. 

Nearly four decades ago, his courage and defiance while being held captive in Vietnam cost him his life. Today it is my great privilege to recognize his extraordinary sacrifices by awarding him the Medal of Honor. 

Rocky grew up in this area and attended Gonzaga College High School, right here in Washington, D.C. One of his fellow soldiers recalled that Rocky was the kind of person you only had to know a few weeks before you felt like you'd known him for years. Serving as an intelligence advisor in the Mekong Delta, he quickly befriended many of the local citizens. He had that kind of personality. During his time there he was accepted into the seminary, with an eye toward eventually returning to Vietnam to be able to work with orphans. 

Rocky was also a soldier's soldier -- a West Point graduate, a Green Beret, who lived and breathed the code of duty and honor and country. One of Rocky's superiors said that the term "gung-ho" fit him perfectly. Others remember his strong sense of moral purpose and unbending belief in his principles. 

As his brother Steve once recalled, "If he thought he was right, he was a pain in the neck." (Laughter.) "If he knew he was right, he was absolutely atrocious." (Laughter.) 

When Rocky completed his one-year tour of duty, he volunteered for another tour. And two weeks before his time was up, on October the 29th, 1963, he set out with several companies of South Vietnamese troops, planning to take out a Viet Cong command post. It was a daring mission, and an unusually dangerous one for someone so close to going home. 

After some initial successes, a vastly larger Viet Kong force ambushed and overran Rocky's unit. Under siege and suffering from multiple bullet wounds, Rocky kept providing covering fire so that friendly forces could withdraw from the killing zone. 

Eventually, he and two other Americans, Lieutenant Nick Rowe and Sergeant Dan Pitzer, were captured, bound and forced to walk barefoot to a prison camp deep within the jungle. For much of the next two years, their home would be bamboo cages, six feet long, two feet wide, and three feet high. They were given little to eat, and little protection against the elements. On nights when their netting was taken away, so many mosquitoes would swarm their shackled feet it looked like they were wearing black socks. 

The point was not merely to physically torture the prisoners, but also to persuade them to confess to phony crimes and use their confessions for propaganda. But Rocky's captors clearly had no idea who they were dealing with. Four times he tried to escape, the first time crawling on his stomach because his leg injuries prevented him from walking. He insisted on giving no more information than required by the Geneva Convention; and cited the treaty, chapter and verse, over and over again. 

He was fluent in English, French and Vietnamese, and would tell his guards to go to hell in all three. Eventually the Viet Cong stopped using French and Vietnamese in their indoctrination sessions, because they didn't want the sentries or the villagers to listen to Rocky's effective rebuttals to their propaganda. Rocky knew precisely what he was doing. By focusing his captors' anger on him, he made life a measure more tolerable for his fellow prisoners, who looked to him as a role model of principled resistance. 

Eventually the Viet Cong separated Rocky from the other prisoners. Yet even in separation, he continued to inspire them. The last time they heard his voice, he was singing "God Bless America" at the top of his lungs. 

On September the 26th, 1965, Rocky's struggle ended with his execution. In his too short life, he traveled to a distant land to bring the hope of freedom to the people he never met. In his defiance and later his death, he set an example of extraordinary dedication that changed the lives of his fellow soldiers who saw it firsthand. His story echoes across the years, reminding us of liberty's high price, and of the noble passion that caused one good man to pay that price in full.” 

Please say a prayer for all the men and women who have given their lives in the cause of freedom, and thank a veteran or someone currently serving. The benefits you have are due in large part to the sacrifices they’ve all made.

 

Those Who Serve

2016-04-30

The link below honors all those who served to preserve our freedoms. It addresses the Everyday Heroes of the past, the present, and the future. But it does so in a way that is poignant, accurate, and thought-provoking. At a time when the American people are disgruntled--to say the

Bennie Adkins

2016-03-31

I have read and I have seen acts of heroism and gallantry that have always amazed me. But every once in a while an individual seems to break the definition of “Hero” in such a way as to make the word insufficient to describe who he is and what he has done. Bennie Adkins is just that sor

Those Who Served in Vietnam

2016-02-29

Although this video narrated by actor Sam Elliot, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, is a bit dated, I thought you might enjoy it for several reasons. For those of you who served, it is a fitting tribute to your courage and willingness to do so. For those of

9/11/12 Revisited

2016-01-31

The subjects of my November 1, 2012 Everyday Heroes blog post were Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, two of the heroes of the terrorist attack against the United States' embassy annex and CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya. I wrote about those two courageous men because they died in that attack

Those Who Protect & Serve

2015-12-31

I happened to read a blog post that was in response to the question: "How many police officers are killed in the United States?" The blog poster responded to this question with: "Not enough." 

Not only is this posting uncivilized, it is just plain moronic. How any American could

Florent Groberg

2015-11-30

 I have published my EVERYDAY HEROES stories for over three years and continue to be amazed at the self-sacrifice and nobility displayed by the subjects of this monthly blog. Florent Groberg is no exception.

Florent, an Army captain who survived attacks by two suicide

The Krisoff Family

2015-10-31

I thought life had hardened me to the point that nothing would bring tears to my eyes. I was wrong. The story of the Krissoff family told in the excerpted Tony Perry 5/23/15 L.A. Times article below and the YouTube link included herein brought tears to my eyes for a number of reasons.

As the father of two sons, I know how dear those sons are to me, and am certain that nothing was more important to Bill & Christine Krissoff than their two sons. I can’t imagine how they emotionally survived the loss of their oldest son, Nathan, in combat in Iraq.As a Vietnam veteran, I know too well the horrors of war and the fellowship and camaraderie of men in a war zone, and the emotional toll that the loss of a comrade can take on his unit members, his family members, and his friends. Based on all that I have read about Nathan Krissoff, he must have been one of America’s best young men.

But, in addition to the loss of their son, I couldn’t help be moved by the action taken by Bill Krissoff, with the support of his wife Christine. Please read the following excerpts from Tony Perry’s article and then watch the short YouTube video narrated by Steven Spielberg. If you remain dry-eyed throughout this video, you are much harder than me:“After he was killed in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006, Marine Lt. Nathan Krissoff was praised by other Marines as a young man who was charismatic yet humble, a natural leader.

Wojtek the Persian Bear

2015-09-30

It has been many months since I highlighted an animal in my monthly Everyday Heroes postings. When I read the story about Wojtek, a bear cub found in Iran in 1942 and adopted by soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Command of the Polish II Corps, I couldn't resist making him my October

On A Train Bound for Paris

2015-08-31

Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Damien A., Mark Moogalian, Chris Norman

The story below was published by the New York Daily News on August 24, 2015.  It tells the tale of heroes who possibly saved the lives of many people on a Paris-bound Thalys train packed with 554

The Pearl Harbor P-40 Boys

2015-07-31

Just when you thought you knew all there was to know about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, another story arises that demonstrates acts of courage that amaze you and provide evidence that Everyday Heroes abound.

Ken Taylor and George Welch were two yound second