When we were in South Bend, Washington Wednesday, I stopped to pay my respects to an old friend. Bob Bush owned the first office I rented for my first newspaper in Grays Harbor, Washington, a lifetime ago. He was a successful businessman who taught me a valuable lesson that has served me well over the years. “Avoid negative people, they’ll drag you down every time. Associate with winners, not losers. And never take business advice from anybody who isn’t doing better than you are.”
Bob, who has since passed on, was a true American hero, the youngest sailor to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor during World War II, as an eighteen year old Navy corpsman. His hometown of South Bend erected this memorial to him, and Tom Brokaw included a chapter about Bob in his book The Greatest Generation.
Bob was a very nice man who was proud of his service but never bragged about it, just acknowledged that yes, it happened. Here is Bob’s Medal of Honor citation:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Medical Corpsman with a rifle company, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Jima, Ryukyu Islands, 2 May 1945. Fearlessly braving the fury of artillery, mortar, and machinegun fire from strongly entrenched hostile positions, Bush constantly and unhesitatingly moved from one casualty to another to attend the wounded falling under the enemy’s murderous barrages. As the attack passed over a ridge top, Bush was advancing to administer blood plasma to a marine officer lying wounded on the skyline when the Japanese launched a savage counterattack. In this perilously exposed position, he resolutely maintained the flow of life-giving plasma. With the bottle held high in one hand, Bush drew his pistol with the other and fired into the enemy’s ranks until his ammunition was expended. Quickly seizing a discarded carbine, he trained his fire on the Japanese charging pointblank over the hill, accounting for six of the enemy despite his own serious wounds and the loss of one eye suffered during his desperate battle in defense of the helpless man. With the hostile force finally routed, he calmly disregarded his own critical condition to complete his mission, valiantly refusing medical treatment for himself until his officer patient had been evacuated, and collapsing only after attempting to walk to the battle aid station. His daring initiative, great personal valor, and heroic spirit of self-sacrifice in service of others reflect great credit upon Bush and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.”
Like most real heroes, Bob seldom talked about what happened that day on Okinawa. The only time I know of him recalling what happened was in an interview when he said, “The first grenade took my right eye out, and I put my arm up to hold it off, and got some fragments in the other eye. Got a lot in my eye and shoulders. They hit me with three hand grenades in a matter of seconds. I was firing on them with [the lieutenant’s] carbine. Every time I saw a Japanese head pop up, I could see the star on their helmets, I’d fire one round a foot below where I saw that head come up, because I knew I couldn’t miss, I’d get ’em on the way down.”
Bob had dropped out of school to join the Navy, and after recovering from his wounds he returned home to join his high school graduating class and marry his sweetheart, Wanda.
He once told me that his biggest regret about all of it was that he lost an eye during the battle and the Navy would not let him return to duty. He felt bad that there were other GIs and Marines who needed a good corpsman and he would not be there to help them.
Have you entered our latest Free Drawing yet? This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Baca: A Ronny Baca Mystery by my buddy Billy Kring. When L.A. Private Investigator Ronny Baca takes the case to find a missing actor, he thinks, How hard can it be? The answer is: Very. Before they know it, Baca and his partner Hondo Wells are dealing with the Russian Mafia and undocumented aliens, bodies are piling up, and time is running out. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. – Arthur Ashe