The Decatur Daily
Decatur had the privilege Monday of publicly honoring some of the many soldiers who have risked their lives to defend our nation.
Joe Bongiovanni of Decatur received the Spirit of America Humanitarian Award. An Italian immigrant who’s now general manager of Serra Toyota, Bongiovanni is a Vietnam veteran who volunteered to lead a U.S. Marine Corps combat squad. While his military service was outstanding, he received the award for his efforts to support service men and women returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frank Libutti of Huntsville received the Audie Murphy Patriotism Award. The Vietnam veteran earned a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts for his involvement in a perilous action in which 130 Marines battled 3,000 North Vietnamese troops. Libutti carried the dead and wounded to tanks despite constant enemy fire, demonstrating the harsh truth behind the Marine slogan, “Leave no one behind.”
Ret. Col. Terry Thomas and Sgt. Major John and Brenda Perry also received awards for their distinguished service.
Most of us consider ourselves patriots. We love our country. We vote, engage in debate designed to improve our nation, volunteer for community service and fly our flag.
Few of us, however, have had to measure the extent of our patriotism against the brutal measuring stick of combat. Would we die for our country? Would we risk all to serve our nation in an unpopular war?
Bongiovanni and Libutti demonstrated the extreme patriotism and bravery that has protected the greatest democracy on Earth. Like those honored Sunday, thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan must wonder every day whether they will live to see tomorrow. They also must face the mundane aspects of courage that don’t get mentioned in award ceremonies: the sweat and dirt and heat, the tedium and homesickness, the fear of friends who may turn out to be enemies, the long stretches without sleep. And many must deal with a haunting emotional burden that follows them home.
These men and women are putting it all on the line to support the United States of America. We owe them not just our gratitude, but our promise that we will do what we can to make sure our nation remains worthy of their sacrifice.