Title: Taking Note of a Hero's Death
The FAX of Life,
For the Week of July 2, 2007
Perhaps heroes are a special breed, but I don't really think so. They
are decent people who do bold, honorable, or courageous things when put
under extreme pressures. They do under duress what has been ingrained in
their normal life routines. Take Chuck Lindberg as an example.
Mr. Lindberg is not to be confused with the famous aviator. He was a
Marine during World War II, and only within the past few years has the story
of his heroism been widely told. Lindberg was in the group of Marines who
helped raise the first American flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of
If you have mental images of the famous flag-raising that became the
model for the Marine Corps Memorial statue in Arlington , Virginia , Lindberg
isn't one of the figures in it. That scene was actually the second flag-raising
on Iwo Jima . The second one came some four hours after the one Lindberg
Only in 1995 did the Marine Corps set the record straight. On the
morning of February 23, 1945, Mount Suribachi was captured by the
Leathernecks. Corporal Lindberg, 24, and five other Marines raised an
American flag on a long pole they found after fighting their way to the top of
the mountain. The scene was photographed by Sergeant Lou Lowery. About
four hours later, the iconic photo by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal was
taken with a larger flag.
Chuck Lindberg was a hero that day -- along with others who did not
raise flags, get photographed, or even survive the battle. Both he and they
were doing something courageous under extraordinary conditions. They were
pursuing a cause they believed was noble and just, and they acted with the
sort of honor and bravery that had been instilled in them.
Anyone today who wants to be a hero must practice for the role. You
practice for being heroic by being honest and keeping your word, telling the
truth and fulfilling commitments, being on time and doing your job, spending
time with your children and teaching them how to treat their other parent
respectfully, aging gracefully and battling cancer, paying your bills and
treating others with respect. People who train to live this way under ordinary
circumstances are the ones who act with decency, integrity, boldness, and
bravery when the chips are down.
I really don't mean to be cynical, but it bothers me that we are more
into Paris Hilton's stint in jail than the death of someone such as Chuck
Lindberg. We produce more "stars" than good examples. We hold TV
competitions for idols and pin-ups and make fun of the honest soul who
returns a briefcase undisturbed or gives back the extra change a befuddled
clerk hands across the counter.
Chuck Lindberg moved to the Twin Cities and became an electrician
after the war. For years, lots of people thought he was either delusional or
lying about helping raise that first flag. Then the record was finally clarified.
The last surviving flag-raiser of Iwo Jima died on June 25, just two days short
of turning 87. Thank you, Mr. Lindberg, for your heroism -- and for causing
the rest of us to think about what it takes to be heroes in our circumstances.
Taking Note of a Hero's Death