By Les Whittle
Some people have been a bit offended that actor Lee Marvin is buried in a grave alongside 3 and 4 star generals at Arlington National Cemetery . His marker gives his name, rank (PVT) and service (USMC). Nothing else. Here's a guy who was only a famous movie star who served his time, why the heck does he rate burial with these guys? Well, following is the amazing answer...
In a time when many Hollywood stars served their country in the armed forces often in rear-echelon posts where they were carefully protected, only to be trotted out to perform for the cameras in war bond promotions, Lee Marvin was a genuine hero. He won the Navy Cross at Iwo Jima . There is only one higher Naval award... the Medal Of Honor. If that is a surprising comment on the true character of the man, he credits his sergeant with an even greater show of bravery.
Dialog from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson: His guest was Lee Marvin.
Johnny said, "Lee, I'll bet a lot of people are unaware that you were a Marine in the initial landing at Iwo Jima ... and that during the course of that action you earned the Navy Cross and were severely wounded."
"Yeah, yeah... I got shot square in the ass and they gave me the Cross for securing a hot spot about halfway up Suribachi...bad thing about getting shot up on a mountain is guys gettin' shot hauling you down. But, Johnny, at Iwo I served under the bravest man I ever knew... We both got the cross the same day, but what he did for his cross made mine look cheap in comparison.
The dumb bastard actually stood up on Red beach and directed his troops to move forward and get the hell off the beach. Bullets flying by and mortar rounds landing every where and he stood there as the main target of gun fire so that he could get his men to safety. He did this on more than one occasion because his men's safety was more important than his own life.
That Sergeant and I have been lifelong friends. When they brought me off Suribachi we passed the Sergeant and he lit a smoke and passed it to me, lying on my belly on the litter and said, where'd they get you Lee?'
"Well Bob... if you make it home before me, tell Mom to sell the outhouse!"
"Johnny, I'm not lying...Sergeant Keeshan was the bravest man I ever knew..... The Sergeant's name is Bob Keeshan... You and the world know him as Captain Kangaroo."
On another note, there was this wimpy little man (who just passed away) on PBS, gentle and quiet. Mr. Rogers is another of those you would least suspect of being anything but what he now portrays to our youth. But Mr. Rogers was a U.S. Navy Seal, combat proven in Vietnam with over twenty-five confirmed kills to his name. He wore a long sleeve sweater on his show to cover the many tattoos on his forearm and biceps. A master in small arms and hand-to-hand combat, able to disarm or kill in a heartbeat.
After the war Mr. Rogers became an ordained Presbyterian minister and therefore a pacifist. Vowing to never harm another human and also dedicating the rest of his life to trying to help lead children on the right path in life. He hid the tattoos and his past life away and won our hearts with his quiet wit and charm.
America's real heroes don't flaunt what they did, they quietly go about their day to day lives, doing what they do best. Often, they are the ones you'd least suspect. They earned our respect and the freedoms that we all enjoy. Take the time to thank anyone that has fought for our freedom. They could be the next Captain Kangaroo or Mr. Rogers.