Sunday, October 08, 2006

Two Heroes

Today is a great day to remember two of America's greatest World War I heroes - Eddie Rickenbacker and Alvin York.

On this day (October 8th) in 1890 - Eddie Rickenbacker was born. Rickenbacker is a personal hero of mine. His was a life of accomplishment. Before the war he was famous but after the war - he was really famous.

Rickenbacker was a famous racecar driver before the war and when he signed up - he was assigned to be General Black Jack Pershing's driver. He essentially begged to become a pilot and to see combat action. He ended up being the American "Ace of Aces" with 26 enemy planes shot down.

After the war he started his own automobile company that incorporated both front wheel drive and four wheel braking. Two improvements that were ridiculed at the time but today are commonplace. He also bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (he would own it until 1945) and he helped turn the Indianapolis 500 into the American icon it has become. Rickenbacker's fame only grew when he formed Eastern Airlines and served with distinction in WWII.

It is a shame that he is not still famous today with many people mistaking him for a guy who makes popcorn.

Also on this day in 1918 - Sergeant Alvin York became a household name when he (along with others) killed 32 Germans and captured 132 others in the Argonne Forest in France. York was awarded the Medal of Honor for his deeds (joining Eddie Rickenbacker who also won the nation's highest military award).

Sergeant York's fame was spread by the 1941 movie Sergeant York, with Gary Cooper starring in the title role.

Some people may ask why we don't have heroes like this in today's military. The answer is that we do still have such men but the media today just doesn't celebrate them like they used to. Check out the story of Brian Chontosh for a prime example.

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