Last week CAPT Thomas Kelley, USN (ret), MOH recipient addressed the first group of CPO Selects. This week's group was to be addressed by CAPT Thomas Hudner, USN, (ret), MOH recipient.
So I was down there promptly at noon.....this promptness thing isn't so bad. And there were the USS Constitution Chief's getting ready.
The CPO Selects came over from the ship and assembled on the grass in front of the Massachusetts Korean War Memorial. CAPT Hudner arrived a few moments later. (This is a pic from 12/2008 because I don't have anything from Thursday)
He is very soft spoken and while his hosts tried to raise the volume on the sound system as much as they could....it was diffucult to hear. If you could have seen us, there were 200 people (the Selects, the mentor Chiefs, the chiefs of the USS Constitution and myself) all listenig raptly. We were straining forward as one, trying not to miss a single word coming from this amazing man.
Like CAPT Kelley the week before, CAPT Hudner spoke of his actions that day in Korea as something he did without thinking more than a few seconds about the consequences. It needed to be done, so he did it -
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a pilot in Fighter Squadron 32, while attempting to rescue a squadron mate whose plane struck by antiaircraft fire and trailing smoke, was forced down behind enemy lines. Quickly maneuvering to circle the downed pilot and protect him from enemy troops infesting the area, Lt. (J.G.) Hudner risked his life to save the injured flier who was trapped alive in the burning wreckage. Fully aware of the extreme danger in landing on the rough mountainous terrain and the scant hope of escape or survival in subzero temperature, he put his plane down skillfully in a deliberate wheels-up landing in the presence of enemy troops. With his bare hands, he packed the fuselage with snow to keep the flames away from the pilot and struggled to pull him free.
Unsuccessful in this, he returned to his crashed aircraft and radioed other airborne planes, requesting that a helicopter be dispatched with an ax and fire extinguisher. He then remained on the spot despite the continuing danger from enemy action and, with the assistance of the rescue pilot, renewed a desperate but unavailing battle against time, cold, and flames. Lt. (J.G.) Hudner's exceptionally valiant action and selfless devotion to a shipmate sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
When that man talks - how can you help but be inspired. CAPT Hudner answered questions about the planes he flew, the Chiefs who influenced him and ships he served aboard.
I hope the CPO Selects left that meeting with a better understanding than ever before about caring for shipmates.