25 February, 2012

Profile 64 - "Kingfish One" as flown by Leo Thorsness

We love stories of courage.

In my opinion, most of such stories aren't so much loved as they are consumed. Like popcorn at the theater. I remember watching the movie, "We Were Soldiers" staring at the screen in disbelief that anyone could have lived through that. Same thing with watching The Miracle Worker, the story about Helen Keller's teacher.

"Wow! (munch munch) Lookit that! Those people are amazing! (munch, slurp)"

There's no real fault in such a perspective. The "amazing" stories of human triumph are so far beyond the average person's work-a-day life that they become a Hollywood Moment by default.

Over the years, I've met a lot of guys who've performed incredible acts of courage. After a while though - probably because I'd heard enough of them - the surreal "Wow!' started to wear off and I began to wonder how I'd perform in the same circumstances.

If you really think about it, the exercise, "What would I really do in those shoes?" is a sobering one for this single fact: no one plans on being a hero.  Instead, circumstances come together in an urgent NOW! that can shred the best intentions in a blink.

This post marks the beginning of the F-105F "Wild Weasel" as flown by Leo Thorsness* on the mission that earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. Bravery? Lights? Camera? Action? They're all there.  And far beyond one single mission.

But - if I get it right - this process will help illustrate that courage isn't the exception. Courage is...


Photo:  Soviet designed SAM-2, surface-to-air missiles.

*Note:  The F-105F was a two-seater.  Captain Harold Johnson occupied the back-seat of the F-105 as the aircraft's Electronic Warfare Officer.  As commander of the aircraft, Thorsness bore the responsibility of Decision for the mission and lead accordingly.  However, that does not diminish the fact that Harold Johnson supported Thorsness's decisions and performed his role brilliantly.