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May 20, 2004

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if a politician lied and cheated? What if a reporter plagiarized or falsified facts? Does it mean that every government representative is bad or that every newscaster can’t be believed? Obviously not. So why is it that both of these illustrious professions are trying their hardest to vilify our servicemen and women because of a few bad apples?

You’ll find no argument here that what those handful of military police did to the Iraqi captives at Abu Ghraib prison was wrong. I personally believe there is more to the story, but regardless of whether this was some secret interrogation ploy or not, it was wrong and should be punished.

Unfortunately, this small aberration, has cast military service in general into a bad light. This character assassination can be blamed in large part on politicians trying to make a name for themselves and media personalities that are worse than ambulance chasers. The government officials can get themselves on TV by casting blame around aimlessly. Unfortunately most folks just remember seeing them on TV and not what they actually said. Then there is the reality TV journalism, searching for the “news” with the highest shock value. Who cares if it is fair, unbiased reporting, they’re after ratings.

Think I’m over reacting? How many of you have heard of Brian Chontosh? Did you see a picture of the man that was awarded the Navy Cross Medal, the second highest award that can be bestowed on a Marine? Nope, but nearly every daily newspaper in the United States ran in depth articles and photos on the Iraqi prison scam. Not only did we get to see photos of the prisoners on dog leashes and stripped naked, but they even put faces with the names of the accused, running their mug shots.

Well, this journalist would rather tell you about a true hero.

Chontosh, 29, from Rochester, NY, received the Naval Cross for extraordinary heroism while serving as commander of an attachment of troops moving towards Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom March 25, 2003. The Medal of Honor is the highest military award.

The citation read as follows:

While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, Chontosh’s platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire. With coalition tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone.

He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, Chontosh ordered the driver to advance directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy.

He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack.

When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.

When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others.

“They are the reflection of the Marine Corps type who’s service to the Marine Corps and country is held above their own safety and lives,” said Gen. Hagee.

“I was just doing my job, I did the same thing every other Marine would have done, it was just a passion and love for my Marines, the experience put a lot into perspective,” said Chontosh.

Call me crazy, but this American would much rather read about our heroes instead of our heels.


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