Tag Archives: George Byers Jr

Patriotism: I’m overwhelmed

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The great Beverly Elliott at Congressman Mark Meadows field office in Murphy NC was able to nudge the Navy guys in Millington TN sufficiently that dad’s list of medals and then the medals themselves were provided. I had been unsuccessful for decades, but she was able to do this straightaway. Ms Elliott didn’t like just giving them to me, so she offered to get hold of a guy in Waynesville NC who makes shadow boxes for medals of decorated veterans pro-bono, and then said that she’ll try to get Mark over so that these could be presented a bit more officially. I love that. Dad, post-mortem, will be able to encourage a bit of patriotism in these USA. We need that always and especially today.

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I tried to place the medals in order of precedence. Note the double issuance of the first two medals as signified by the stars on the ribbons, and the triple issuance of the last medal as signified by the two stars on the ribbon of that medal. I’ve written of the first three medals in generalities:

Ms Elliott said that she’s going to try to get the stories of the particular circumstances for the issuance of the first number of medals as recommended by the POTUS of the day.

The above medals are issued by these USA. There are three other medals issued by the Philippines, Korea and even the United Nations – Hey! – the back-in-the-day-U.N.!

 

Patriotism is a virtue of the natural law and is blessed by God. Speaking of God, my best memory of dad is when I was only a few years old and was able to walk up the aisle of the Cathedral church to kneel at the linen-covered altar rail with him at Communion time. I’ve written of this before:

My favorite memory of him was back in the Autumn of 1962, when I was just 2 1/2 years old. I’d walk up in the Communion line next to him with the rest of the family behind us. This was at the Cathedral with its gorgeous altar rail with the linens flipped over the top. I was always impressed by the linens getting flipped over the top, just as I was with kneeling there beside my dad, reaching up as high as I could to put my hands under the linens like he was doing. I was pretty small. I was filled with such wonder and awe and reverence as the priest and altar boy with paten would make it over to us. They would start on the Epistle side. We were always on the Gospel side. Everything worked together to instill reverence.

It was good be on my knees with dad before the Lord Jesus. Very good.

Why mention that in this post on the medals of a highly decorated war hero? Because here we have a warrior on his knees, in reverence, before The Warrior, Jesus, in the epic battle of good over evil, God over Satan. And dad is with Jesus. I love that.

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Dad’s medals Distinguished Flying Cross Fascinating title for the propeller

George Byers Jr Distinguished Flying Cross 1

And then the Gold Star, that is, for the USMC, a device indicating the second reception of the DFC:

George Byers Jr Distinguished Flying Cross 2

That’s all I have for this one, with the Navy Personnel Command in Millington TN only sending a box checked next to the title and noting the Gold Star. I wish I knew more about the particularities. As both notifications say at the Hall of Valor Project, “Citation Needed”. I’m thinking that the citations are classified, the reason for extra-effort to write a “synopsis.”

I remember that as a little boy, dad explained that this was the Distinguished Flying Cross, a propeller over a cross. To me, this was stunning, an intersection of society and religion, of military service and religion, the highest form of honor that could be given to a war-award, thought I, that which recalled the the epic battle of heaven over against hell, of Jesus over against the forces of evil, recalling that this battle was that of the greatest love, laying down one’s life for one’s friends, the greatest form of patriotism. “What’s the Gold Star?” I asked. “For receiving it twice,” he said. “Twice” thought I, in awe.

I would then grab a plastic model of the Corsair dad flew, and run about inside the house and out, pretending to be the pilot in battle, and inspired.

corsair checkerboard squadron wr 5

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312, the Checkerboarders, callsign “Check!” Note that the model above depicts the final, most powerful version of the plane that could out-fly all the early jets to follow.

Note the three holes on the front edge of both wings, making for fully six 50 cals that could run at the same time, a kind of precursor to the A-10 “Warthog” that, to date, still surpasses the rate of fire of the Warthog.

  • Today’s A-10 “Warthog” can belt out seventy rounds a second from its single 50 cal gatling gun.
  • The later, Korean war version of the Corsair, fitted with fully six AN/M2 Browning 50 cals could, in theory, put out a maximum of eighty five rounds a second.

Actually, anything faster than this simply is no longer useful and such a waste of ammo, which already weighs way too much.

The missiles, dad explained, were used for the usual sorties of taking out munitions trains and bridges.

During such excursions, he said that he would be flying in “North” Korea just above the ground, over rice paddies, and that the farmers would look up at him as he flew just overhead. He said he could see the faces of women and children, and that that’s what inspired him to serve and put himself at risk. It was all for them. They deserved better than horrific communism which was dragging them down and which threatened to drag us down. If you want to know what “down” is, try the hell-hole of Venezuela right now, or, still to this day, “North” Korea as opposed to “South” Korea.

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Dad’s medals: honor of circumstances – U.S. Navy Distinguished Service Medal

US Navy Distinguished Service Medal“The Navy Distinguished Service Medal was originally senior to the Navy Cross [just below the Medal of Honor], until August 1942 when the precedence of the two decorations was reversed. Currently [dad’s time], it is worn after the Defense Distinguished Service Medal [after the Navy Cross] and before the Silver Star Medal.”

“The Navy Distinguished Service Medal is bestowed upon members of the Navy or Marine Corps who distinguish themselves by exceptionally meritorious service to the United States government in a duty of great responsibility. To justify this decoration, exceptional performance of duty must be clearly above that normally expected, and contributes to the success of a major command or project. Generally, the Distinguished Service Medal is awarded to officers in principal commands at sea, or in the field, whose service is of a manner to justify the award. However, this does not preclude the award of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to any individual who meets the service requirements. The term “great responsibility” implies senior military responsibility, and the decoration is normally only bestowed to senior Navy flag officers and Marine Corps general officers, or extremely senior enlisted positions such as the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy or the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. In rare instances, it has also been awarded to Navy captains and Marine Corps colonels, typically those in positions of significant responsibility in direct support of senior flag and general officers, and then only by exception.”

This is “and only then by exception” presentation, twice.

Dad was USMC, but that’s still part of the Department of the Navy, and at this level, the award is from the Navy. I don’t have the citation for the description of the “great responsibility” in its particularities of circumstance – just the fact of it from the archives in Millington, TN.

Here’s the deal: Even though there are particularities of circumstance that point to the actions of one particular individual, any medal, this one in particular, is dependent on the the brotherhood in which one finds oneself, that brotherhood setting up the structure, the circumstances in which any one guy might well shine, just doing what he had to do in all those unrepeatable particularities. Thus, even for the Medal of Honor, the guy receiving it unfailingly says that he’s receiving the medal for everyone who was there, as they were all depending on one another, and if they happened to be singled out in a particular nanosecond to do the necessary, that’s where the always repeated statement comes in: “I only did what any one of the guys would do.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not reducing all medals to “participation awards” that dumb down competition and a striving for excellence among our youngsters in our now ultra-liberal NEA public schools. Just the opposite. For guys in battle, a medal like this, whoever wears it later, speaks for all, inviting one to be put before that which is much bigger than any individual, a common love of God and Country, Pro Deo et Patria.

And yet, an account of what actually took place in all the unrepeatable historical circumstances is inspiring. We’re not just souls, but we also have bodies in particular places. To see what someone else has gone through when put before a decision of honor is surely inspiring. I wish I could get my hands on the accounts for the medals…

 

 

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Dad the hero: I don’t know the half of it Thanks NC Rep Mark Meadows & Bev!

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I’ve never met the Honorable Mark Meadows or Beverly, but they are now family as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been trying to get something about dad’s wartime years for decades, it all having disappeared in the vicissitudes of life. No one could get anything, not even friends of friends working the archives. But Rep. Meadows and Bev were successful. The first notification, the listing of medals, came in just now. I hope there is more available. Obviously, I don’t know the half of it. My patriotism is confirmed again.

I am overwhelmed. This is all quite the revelation to me. I’d like to write some posts about those medals against the backdrop of the man I knew as dad. But below is just my first overall reaction to my dad, the hero. He didn’t get the Medal of Honor, but on multiple other occasions he almost did with another four medals just below the Medal of Honor a couple of which are exceedingly rare for field officers who are not Generals. He didn’t get a medal for a record number of planes shot down as a fighter-attack pilot, but some of the missions he was given were obviously freakishly important, with the success of some part of the war effort, in no small part, riding on whether he would be successful. He got a Battle-Wounded Purple Heart. And, I only find out now, he was also in the Europe-Africa-Middle East Campaign. I had thought he was all Pacific based. What special mission did they spirit him away to do way outside of his normal theater of operations, and then back again?

Part I: the spirituality of integrity, of being a hero

  • On the one hand, my dad wasn’t perfect. I know that. I’ve seen him at his worst. I’m his son. Have any of us seen ourselves at our own worst, admitting that, dealing with it, coming around, being the best because of depending on our Lord, because of knowing we can’t depend on ourselves?
  • So, on the other hand, I’ve also seen dad at his best, when he learned, successfully, to depend only on our Lord. He’s always been the hero in my eyes because of victory in his personal life. In that way, he’s my example of integrity. I still remember going to the 1962 Mass with him in the early 1960s: he would smack his heart with his fist at the Confiteor: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Part II: The instruction about my dad, the hero

Top Brass and politicians were often over to my dad’s house, George Byers Jr. There I would be, the little boy naive to the warring ways of the world. More times than I can count, they would take me aside, have me sit down, and have “The Talk” with me. “The Talk” consisted of seriously looking me in the eye and then, when I was paying serious attention, they would instruct me about my dad being a great hero, that there were a lot of things which for a thousand reasons could not be told, but I had to know that my dad was a great, great hero, and that it was an honor for me to be his son.

This one or that would write a book. This one or that would recount war stories. But they would never ask my dad for the same. They already knew his story as these things get around by witnesses who survived to tell the tale. They knew he could never say a word with any non-combatant like me around, little boy that I was.

What I don’t have…

While the generic description of why any medal is what it is is widely available, there is also a story recounted for specific medals given to specific individuals for specific actions, especially ones which are recommended only by the President of these USA. I don’t have the stories. I wish I did…

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Nostalgia: VMFA 312 Checkerboarders

george-byers-jr-usmc-corsairI sometimes get nostalgic when I’m not feeling well. Yesterday, in the minutes it takes to get back from Graham County to Cherokee County, my right eye swelled shut for who knows what reason, although it looks like I was in a fight. If I had gone to the emergency room (I wouldn’t!) they might have been tempted to call the LEOs who would ask what really happened. I would just say, “I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, the face being what it was, I had a moment to be nostalgic and so looked up a phrase involving Pappy Boyington and my dad’s name just on a lark. Hah! Another picture of my dad perhaps in his early-twenties. A bit after this picture, he would end up in another USMC Fighter Attack squadron, the VMFA 312, the famed Checkerboarders, which was the squadron used to portray Pappy in the series Bah Bah Blacksheep, though my dad headed up the Checkerboarders and was later in command of one of the bases in Japan. Dad died back in 1993 with all the sacraments. So very important. I really have to wonder if he and Pappy ran into each other. Dad could put back some liquor at the time and be a bit boisterous and be a bit of a troublemaker, just like Pappy. Maybe they were too much like each other and so had to be in different squadrons as far apart in the Pacific as possible.

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