What Makes a Hero?

Reprinted from PN November 2000

George Lang's valor in Vietnam nearly cost him his life. Since then, he has modestly waged a different sort of war.

"This will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave." Elmer Davis, But We Were Born Free [1954]

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As a researcher for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, George C. Lang has come to know quite a few Medal of Honor recipients.

"I've interviewed a lot of them," Lang says. "They're similar in certain ways. [Many] lost their fathers when they were children. It made them grow up faster and take on responsibilities sooner. They're humble guys. They don't think of themselves as heroes. They'll always say they were just doing their job. They always say the men they were with should get more credit."

Lang, a 50-year-old U.S. Army veteran from Seaford, N.Y., on the south shore of Long Island, could be describing himself.

At age 23, Lang, who at 7 lost his own father, was honored for exemplary service as a squad leader during the Vietnam War. His leadership and actions successfully hindered the enemy's advance. He continued to direct his troops even after shrapnel from a rocket severed his spinal cord and his immediate evacuation was ordered.

Beyond the Call

Lang's actions during his brief service in the Army were an inspiration for his company and the Army in general. For his conduct as a 21-year-old squadron leader on February 22, 1969, Lang received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force an individual serving in the U.S. Armed Services can receive.

In the years since Lang's act of heroism nearly cost him his life, he has modestly waged a different sort of warone of independence for people with SCI and other disabilities.

On Veterans Day, to recognize all the men and women who, like Lang, gave so much to serve their country, is to take a small step toward expressing the gratitude they so greatly deserve.

For the complete text of this article, call the PN/Paraplegia News office at (888) 888-2201 (toll-free) / (602) 224-0500, and ask for the November 2000 PN. Chris Pierson is EPVA Action editor, for the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, in New York.

Contact: The Congressional Medal of Honor Society, 40 Patriots Point Road Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464. (843) 884-8862 / 884-1471 (fax) / See also ?Living Heroes? (PN, July 2000).


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