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07 November 2006


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abu sinan

They really dont make them like this anymore. Thanks for telling the story.

We do need more leaders like this, ones who were willing to put their lives on the line, not to simply send others to do so.


Excellent post.

Your last couple of paragraphs remind me of the disconnect today between real and imagined heroism.

I had the pleasure of meeting Damian Lewis last year. He's the fine British actor who played Captain Winters in HBO's Band of Brothers. He told me a story of how on an airplane not long ago, a young American approached him.

"Captain Winters," he asked.

"Well, if you like,'' said Damian.

The young American was recently back from fighting in Iraq, and told him of how moved he'd been by Damian's performance, how he and his mates had watched the series in southern Iraq on nights filled with indirect fire and it gave them strength. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out his dog tags.

"Here, I want you to have these."

"But you have to understand,'' stuttered Damian. "I'm just an actor. I'm no hero."

The young American insisted, and Damian accepted them.

Damian told me the story, and I repeat it here, not to make fun of this young man, but to show how confused many people are about the real and the fake; the fake courage that consists of delivering the right lines at the right time is often more celebrated than the real thing, which grim men display in blood and war and generally don't like talking about afterward.


Dear Col.,
Hopefully we will soon be able to call Jim Webb Senator Webb. A compelling piece.


I do hope that Webb wins (it is today, isn't it?). I think he's a good and honest man. Fingers crossed.

Nancy Kimberlin

I have admired Jim Webb through out his campaign and even though I live in CA, have supported his campaign. I truly wish we had more leaders like him also, men who walk the walk, not just talk it. It does look like he is going to win, maybe Americans are begining to wake up and realize character does count.

W. Patrick Lang


Grim is the right word for most of the people you are thinking of, although I have known a few who could be relied on make jokes under fire and loved to talk about it afterward. pl



I was recently doing some work in East Texas and I encountered the strangest thing I have ever seen. I swear this is true.

Every place I went there were pictures of John Wayne hanging up. The Duke was dressed in his normal cowboy clothes with his six gun. I saw this in a number of restaurants, but here is the real strange part. I was doing work for an oil company with over a billion in revenue and they had pictures of Wayne hanging in most of the executives offices.

I am from Texas originally but have lived all over the world and for the last 15 years have lived in California. I see a lot of strange things here in LA, but I will have to tell you it was kind of like being in a Twilight Zone sequence. I wanted to yell at everyone, "Hey, wake up, he is not real. In fact when he had a chance to serve his country during WW2 he didn't take it and continued making movies."

I left thinking to myself, no many people in this country can not sort out the real from the imagined (macho Bush). Weird.


Jim Webb is the "real deal." He is a genuine hero. But, they do still make them this way. This month's issue of VFW magazine has an article on those who have been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross and the Air Force Cross for actions in Southwest Asia. Heros all. I sometimes think that we, as a country, do not deserve them.


Some comments
got two final contradictory polls, Sabato at the UVa center and Novak


it will be good to check them wednesday morning for refrence. my preference is a divided congress. Dems House, Repubs Senate w/ Webb and Steele. Trick question, What do the four senators from the two most populous states have in common? A Dem Senate is a rubberstamp for starting the Iran War.

Webb is an authentic hero, Calling for surrender is a sign of humanity. Definitely a good guy. If i didn't live in the valley of humility (NC) nestled between the two mountains of pride(VA & SC), he'd have my vote.

Just one reservation, the function of a leader is well to LEAD and to COMMAND. A leader doesn't have to be the bravest or have the best ideas, or so they taught us at Fort Benning. He has to be receptive to the best ideas and co-ordinate. If you get yourself shot and leave your command orphaned you have also failed them. In fact, in combat, I would rather serve with someone that displayed caution, fear, and was circumspect.

It's a fine line and like everything else it's beyond definition and broad statements and depends on the circumstance. Being bold often results in less casualties.

On the DMZ at Con Thien in Vietnam I was Army and we had taken over from the Marines. We used to joke that the Army reconned by Artillery where the Marines did it in person, but in my last months a gung ho captain sent my butt on three man night ambushes in the middle of the DMZ. Not good. One patrol got lost and wandered into the minefield at Con Thien. Not good.

But then again the legendary successful commanders that most inspired their men such as Hannibal, Alexander the Great led from the front and were found in the middle of decisive action and ofter created it.

Keeping my fingers crossed for Webb and his son. May God Bless and Protect them Both!

Qien Sabe. Will


COL Lang doesn't draw the contrast. It isn't as if George Allen is just an ordinary politician without a military background.

Allen is a vicious fake.

I voted for Webb at 6 AM today, in line right behind VADM Jerry Tuttle (don't know how he voted, didn't ask, but had a good discussion of tactical comms). I am going to feel great all day today, especially after the results are announced.


Sadly there aren't many Jim Webbs left, especially when one looks on the political front. Thank you for giving us the background Col. Lang.


That was an excellent post sir, thank you for writing that.. Lets just hope that Mr. Webb will be my next Senator.

Green Zone Cafe

I find it hard to understand why Webb is not ten points or more ahead in the polls. Allen seems to be a buffoon. I guess he's been around a long time in Virginia politics, was governor and has met lots of the electorate over years - personal contact means a lot.

Also with regard to Dan's comment: The soldier who gave his dogtags to Damien Lewis was fully aware of the difference between illusion and reality, having lived through the reality. I expect he just wanted to show his appreciation to an artist who provided him some emotional substinance and inspiration while he was dealing with that reality.


Well that makes Mr. Webb a hateful object to the Bushies who spread the word John McCain was a N. Vietnames agent. I especially like what they did to Max Cleland. He won a silver star for volunterring at Khe Sanh and rescuing prisoners under fire. Sometime later he or someone in his platoon dropped a grenade and he was crippled for life. The Republican position was that he was no hero, that George Bush was a greater hero than him because Bush didn't waste taxpayer money with medical expences.

These are people whose heroes are John Wayne, who used his contacts to stay assigned to Hollywood in WWII rather than go into more active service, and Sylvestor Stallone who spent the Vietnam war in a girl's school in Switzerland. Both of course subsequently won their respective war in the movies.

People like mr. Webb will get only contempt from leaders like Field Marshall Limbaugh. True victory is in faith based reality, all else reminds them of the inaneness of their lives.


There is much more to tell about Jim Webb's combat record and later activities that speaks to his character and why we need him as a Senator. Landing in Vietnam as a platoon commander fresh out of the Naval Academy and Marine Officer Basic School (where he was first in his class), Webb’s initial, “gung ho” views of the war evolved over time into a deep understanding of the full complexities of fighting an insurgency, intermixed with main-force NVA actions, that characterized the An Hoa basin. This area was mostly a populated zone, with little or no Vietnam government presence – surrounded on three sides by mountains that allowed NVA units to move freely into an out of the populated areas. This had been a “hard” place going back into the post-WWII French war. Jim Webb lost many of his platoon members, killed and wounded, through relatively constant action and the many booby-traps (most used dud Marine artillery rounds). Webb felt every loss deeply.

Webb went on to become commander of his company and only towards the end of his tour spent some time in his battalion’s operations shop.

His silver star and two bronze star citations would provide further documentation of Webb’s near continuous combat experience, leadership skills and heroism.

To earn one of his Purple Hearts, Webb was wounded by grenade shrapnel, but refused to be medevaced and was treated instead in the field by his battalion surgeon. Some time after returning from Vietnam, his leg collapsed while running. Some of the shrapnel had not been removed and a resulting bone infection had eaten way much of his kneecap. This unfortunate injury led to his medical retirement.

Webb next went to Georgetown law school and while there began a six-year pro bono representation of a Marine who had been convicted of war crimes in Vietnam (finally clearing the man's name in 1978, three years after his suicide).

Webb began his first novel, “Fields of Fire” while at Georgetown. For those who would like to know more about Webb’s combat experience, much of the combat described in “Fields of Fire” was based on real events. It provides a useful “window” into Webb’s time in the An Hoa basin.


Interesting observation here, I tried to verify this by visiting the Whitehouse website, but the video wouldn't play - can anyone else make it work?


Frank Durkee

Both Truman and Marshall are heros of mine. They among others defined forme what "Public Service' meant. Uncles on both sides of my family won the Navy Cross in WWII one as a navy pilot and one as a Marine grunt. They were of the "I don't choose to talk about it, I only did what I needed to do and others did as much , if not more" variety. They set standards that are hard to find today. I miss it.

David All

Thank Col. Lang for telling about James Webb's heroism: Thank also everyone who commented on this thread, particuarly JoeC, Dan, John, & Will. Am leaving work now to go vote for James Webb. Hope he is our next Senator here in Virginia. Pray that his son comes back safely from Iraq.


Nice note Colonel my fingers are definitely crossed for your republic, I'd hate to see it go down for the count and not get up.

I do like Ike but he didn't stand up for Marshall, a great human being period, when he was attacked during the communist witch hunt - politics, eh, maybe. I still like Ike, though.

Just an outsider's view, but I've always thought of the Navy Cross as equal to the medal of Honor. It is just for navy and marine personnel, right and in any country they are special. A bit biased, I know.

Hey, I've almost forgotten Neil Armstrong - a naval aviator right - you don't see him selling crap or searching for the spotlight.

Mr. Webb seems of the same stock.


county by county Va Senate results
2 heartening things at 10 pm poll day. Tidewater Va, Norfolk, Portsmout, Hampton went for Webb. The military has finally quit drinking the NeoKon Kool-Aid! Close race but the only half the vote from Northern Va is yet in.

I've often been wrong, but it looks good. Will


Dan, RE: John Wayne

If you get a chance read William Manchester's (biographer of McArthur among others) Goodbye Darkness
His memoir as a Marine in WWII. John Wayne toured in a USO Revue and was booed lustily by the Grunts, who saw him as a phony.

The reason the Karl Roves of America have their way is but a simple mathematical equation. The numbers of the Boomer age cohort who served in Vietnam during that conflict's duration is much smaller than the one who actively opposed it.

The stay-at-home resisters are not about to have some kind of red white and blue guilt trip shoved down their unwilling yaps. So their resistance posture will be to vote down the vets every time, given the chance.

In short, they suffer from lead deficiency syndrome. Forget, Hell!


He's coming on strong in the 9th inning. He may just pull this out!

different clue

Two comments above note the problem of people confusing world-of-imagination heroes played by
actors, and real people acting heroically in the
real world. English actor
Edward Woodward who used to
play the title role in "The
Equalizer" noted this problem in a TV talkshow interview. He talked about
the number of people who recognized him on the street
and thought he really WAS
"the equalizer". Once an
elderly lady begged him for
his help with something, he
asked her if she shouldn't be calling on family members
or the police or somebody.
She said something like "you
are my last hope. You are
The Equalizer!" He could not get her to understand that The Equalizer was a TV
show character; and that he,
Edward Woodward, was not The
Equalizer; but was, in fact,
an actor named Edward Woodward. Since she was elderly, youth was not the
problem in her case anyway.
Mr. Woodward thought it was
a problem of people who had
come to have no faith in
other real people or in the
institutions around them,
and thought that believing
hard enough in The Equalizer
would make him real. And able to help.

If heroism is choosing to
take a risk up to death as
a consequence of doing something for others or for
principle which one could just as well avoid doing,
there were and maybe still
are heroes in civilian life.
Civil Rights workers and leaders (Dr. King being the
most famous) knew the death
they risked pursuing their
work, knew they could always
avoid the risk by giving up
the work, and kept doing the
work anyway. And some of them were killed, as they knew they might be. If that
can be considered heroic behavior, then they might well be considered heroes.


Col. Lang,
I hope to be congratulating you soon on your great new Senator from Virginia, Senator Webb.

Given Webb's current small lead (about 1800 votes); estimating that the 18 remaining precincts will break 2 to 1 in favor of Webb; and believing James Carville's rumor that there are 31,000 absentee ballots in Fairfax county yet to be counted - which should be solidly Democratic; and hoping that military personnel overseas will vote more for Webb than for Allen, I am very optimistic for a Webb victory.

Ian Whitchurch

CNN is stating

1,165,682 50%

Republican Allen
1,158,136 49%

Independent Grassroots Parker
25,952 1%

Looks like a recount with Webb with his nose in front.

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