Saturday, July 12, 2008

True hero

American's love their heroes.

But more often than not, the people we exalt as heroes don't really qualify in the true sense of the word. We worship athletes, musicians and movie stars as heroes. In recent years, society has even elevate people to lofty status for inane things like appearing on a reality TV program - the odd phenomenon of being famous for being famous.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with respecting the abilities of a star athlete, or honoring the craft of an excellent actor or actress.

But let's not call them heroes. Talent and ability do not a hero make.

One of the Webster definitions of a hero reads, "one that shows great courage."

A hero makes a conscious decision to walk into danger. A hero exhibits a willingness to sacrifice him or her self for something greater. A hero recognizes that they don't represent the center of the universe.

The U.S. Army honored a true hero yesterday.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 David F. Cooper of the A 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) received the Distinguished Service Cross at a Ceremony at Ft. Campbell, Ky.

Cooper, 48, from outside Cincinnati, Ohio, earned the honor for heroism exhibited during an engagement with the enemy in central Iraq in 2006.

When an AH-6 Little Bird helicopter was shot down and Special Operations soldiers defending the crippled bird came under fire, Cooper flew his own chopper over the enemy at low level, drawing fire away from soldiers on the ground.

He acted with complete disregard for his own safety as he single handedly took aerial action against an armed and numerically superior enemy, according to a military press release.

Military officials recommending him for the medal wrote, "His aggressive actions, complete disregard for his personal safety and extreme courage under fire resulted in him single-handedly repelling the enemy attack. ... His actions assured the survival of the men on this mission and were in keeping with the finest traditions of the special-operations community."

Cooper initially landed his helicopter when the first AH-6 went down. After about 40 minutes, enemy trucks appeared and open fire on the downed helicopter and the Special Operations soldiers who had set up a perimeter. The American's returned fire, but the enemy stayed out of effective range.

It was at that point Cooper made the decision to engage the enemy.

"I knew then I had to get my aircraft back into the air to defend our ground troops. I guess out of sheer instinct, I along with my co-pilot headed toward the enemy forces and returned fire," Cooper said in a telephone interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I didn't do all of this single-handedly because I had a ground crew working with me.

"I'm glad that we were able to uphold the moniker of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, which is, 'Night Stalkers never quit.'"

The Distinguished Service Cross is the Army's second highest medal for combat valor. The Army has honored 13 other soldiers with the medal during the war on terror.

I believe Cooper became a hero long before he won the medal. He volunteered to serve in the Army in 1985, and chose to continue in defense of his country through the war. He's lived his life serving something higher then his own life.

That exemplifies heroism.

In fact, every young man and woman who commits to serve the country, knowing he or she could lose their life, demonstrates heroism in its truest sense.

I understand the need for the media to report things like Abu Ghraib and those rare cases where U.S. military personnel engage in dishonorable actions. The media serves an important role in informing the American people. The information helps citizens to self govern.

What I don't understand is why the media refuses to highlight the stories of bravery and sacrifice exemplified by Cooper and countless other soldiers, sailors, airmen Marines and Guardsmen? Where are the documentaries? Where are the special reports and wall to wall coverage? After one story, if that, the media moves on and we forget these heroes.

In my mind, Chief Warrant Officer 5 David F. Cooper should maintain a place in the American psyche. He, and others like him, should represent what American citizens think of when they think of their nation. A noble group of people who generally seek to do right.

I for one will not forget the courage, sacrifice and heroism of the men and women who defend not only this nation, but the principles of freedom and liberty around the world.

Read Cooper's Bio

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