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Col. Joseph Crosswhite – G.I. Joe, an Exceptional American

Iredell County Senior Superior Court Judge Joe Crosswhite (right), who is also a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, recently returned from an assignment in Afghanistan. Crosswhite is pictured with Col. Siad Mahmood, chief prosecutor for the Afghan ArmyIre
Iredell County Senior Superior Court Judge Joe Crosswhite (right), who is also a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, recently returned from an assignment in Afghanistan. Crosswhite is pictured with Col. Siad Mahmood, chief prosecutor for the Afghan ArmyIre
Mooresville Tribune

Surely it must be divine providence that this week marked the completion of my new book, Down on Main Street Searching for American Exceptionalism. Writing a book can be a daunting task when the subject being written about is so broad. Choosing to write about “American Exceptionalism”, much to the chagrin of those on the political left who doubt the exceptionalism of Americans, has proven to be such a massive task it had to be broken down to a four-book series. Book number one is being pre-release this month, but making its debut fittingly on the 4th of July.

What made this week so special involves a story about G.I. Joe. You remember G.I. Joe? G.I. Joe has long been one of the favorite “boy’s toys” of the last half-century made by Hasbro, an American multinational toy company. The super action toy hero who was made famous in comics however, there really was a G.I. Joe in real life who displayed all the characteristic of exceptionalism. This G.I. Joe was Ernie Pyle, born near Dana, Indiana, and makes him an ideal character to represent the kind of American Exceptionalism I discussed in my book.

To truly understand the exceptionalism of this G.I. Joe I believe it is fitting to tell you how the term first came about. Its history dates back to World War I. The term G.I. stood for Government Issued which was an acronym of Galvanize Iron, because much of the equipment issued to U.S. soldiers was stamped "G.I.", meaning that it was made from galvanized iron. Understanding the sense of humor of someone in uniform who can make light of another military term “hurry up and wait”, you can see how it was an easy transition from galvanized iron to government issued to simply, G.I., as if stamped on the foreheads of every recruit standing in line while at the induction center waiting to be signed up. The real G.I.Joe, Ernie Pyle was anything but cut from a "stamped-mold-ordinary" individual.

The story of G.I. Joe was actually made into a movie in 1945, titled “The Story of G.I. Joe”, starring Robert Mitchum, Burgess Meredith, plus the Sicily, Italy, and African campaign Combat Veterans. The motion picture was nominated for four Academy Awards. The Story of G.I. Joe, was a true story of war as seen through the eyes of Ernie Pyle the famous Pulitzer Prize, Scripps Howard Newspaper war correspondent and frontline journalist. So close to the action in Africa, Europe, and the Pacific theaters of World War II, Ernie Pyle actually was killed in action April 18, 1945, after being struck by a Japanese machine gunner’s bullet on Ie Shim a, a small island near Okinawa in the South Pacific. He was 44 years old. It takes real guts to go to war with only a pencil and note pad, so seeing war through the eyes of Ernie Pyle, brought the sacrifice, violence, and death of war home to America in real life. His death symbolized the brutality, viciousness, and totality of war.

NOTE: As my new book notes, anyone willing to don the uniform of the U.S. military, which by the way is the lowest paid of all those in government service, is an example of American Exceptionalism. We the American people should be on our knees every night thanking God there are those willing to serve and keep us free.

"For those beneath the wooden crosses, there is nothing we can do, except perhaps to pause and murmur, 'Thanks pal, thanks.'" Words Ernie Pyle uttered over the body of Captain Henry T. Waskow who was killed in action on December 14, 1943, during the Battle of San Pietro Infine in Italy.

G.I. Joe is still alive today and was not lost with the death of Ernie Pyle. As I stated in my opening paragraph, the past week seemed like divine providence as it was the week I signed-off on the “proof copy” of my new book, Down on Main Street Searching for American Exceptionalism, and sent it off to the publisher for printing. Each day of the week on both television and radio there were discussions by radio talk-show and television commentators regarding the subject of America’s many problems with the consensus that American exceptionalism was nowhere to be found. Those discussions were capped off Friday night when a panel member of a TV group discussion was holding a sign that read “WHERE IS AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM?”

Even more remarkable, Friday afternoon I had the opportunity to attend the Bronze Star award ceremony of Colonel Joseph Crosswhite, Chief of International and Operational Law U.S. Army Force Command, in Statesville, North Carolina, a neighboring community next to where I live in Mooresville…another real life G.I. Joe in the flesh.

Colonel Crosswhite’s BIO reads like “hometown boy makes good”. It’s a story that would make a great movie. I can see it right now portraying the cast of those who told Col. Crosswhite’s story during the one hour ceremony. George C. Scott (who played Gen. George S. Patton in the movie Patton) could portray former Deputy Commanding General of NATO Training Mission/Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan, Gen. James Mallory III; Karl Malden (who played Gen. Omar Bradley in Patton) as Maj. General Gill Beck Commander of the 81st Regional Support Command; and Tom Cruise (who played Lt. Daniel Kaffee the defense attorney of Pfc. Louden Downey and Lance Cpl. Harold Dawson in the military court martial drama, A Few Good Men) as Col. Joseph Crosswhite himself…all the perfect cast of exceptional Americans to portray a story about American Exceptionism.

Col. Crosswhite was born in Statesville, North Carolina, graduating from Statesville High School and going on to attend the University of Tennessee on an ROTC scholarship. He quickly rose to the top rung of the ladder at the University and became Commander of the ROTC brigade. Following his graduation from Tennessee he was commissioned a 2nd. Lieutenant in the Field Artillery and was assigned to the 1st Armored Division in Nurnberg, Germany. In Germany Col. Crosswhite served as Platoon Leader, Battery Commander, Nuclear Weapons Officer and General’s Aide.

After serving four years as an artillery officer, he returned home and enrolled at the University of South Carolina to study law. He graduated in 1992, and was commissioned a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve JAG Corps and joined the 12th Legal Support Command at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. During this period in his life, Col. Crosswhite served as a team leader and deputy commander for the 12th Legal Support Command, Staff Judge Advocate of the 81st Regional Support Command, and served as the Chief of International Operational Law for the United States Army Forces Command.

In 2005, Col. Crosswhite was called back to active duty and deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, serving as the 3rd U.S. Army legal advisor for military detainment facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. His Middle East tour also included serving as Command Judge Advocate for the Army Support Group in Qatar before returning to Statesville, where he served his community as a Superior Court Judge.

As with many military officers, his services were again needed in September 2013, when he was activated and assigned as the senior legal advisor for the Afghan judges and prosecutors in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, where he had the difficult and unenviable task of teaching the people of Afghanistan the meaning justice, and how to develop a fair and impartial legal system. That is…the concept that the judiciary needs to be kept away from politics and not be subject to improper influence from other branches of government, or from private or partisan interests.

The task assigned to Col. Crosswhite to impart the needs of a free judiciary which is the foundation of a civil society, was made even more difficult than first imagined in a country so rife with illiteracy and political corruption it makes the terrorist influence seem mild by comparison. Now that the U.S. has begun our withdrawal from the Afghan/Iraqi region one can only hope that Col. Crosswhite and the U.S. Government efforts will be lasting and pave the way to freedom for future generations of Afghan citizens so American blood will not have been shed in vain. As I take time to reflect Col. Crosswhite's noble efforts it is impossible not to look at the shenanigans we see that been evolving over the last several years with our own Department of Justice in Washington DC where justice doesn’t always seem to be handed out equally and impartial. Perhaps his ideals and those of our Founding Fathers need to be revisited upon the politicians we have elected to be our leaders.

Fittingly, the award ceremony was held in a packed, standing-room-only court room in downtown Statesville, where Col. Crosswhite was surrounded by those of his support team…family, friends, legal colleagues, an appreciative community, and enough military “brass” to start our own band. The accolades from those who have served with Col. Crosswhite, brought much pride to those of us in attendance. Like all exceptional Americans, Col. Crosswhite’s acceptance remarks were the highlight of the afternoon and could only be described as a tribute to all those that supported him during his exemplary military career, and to those who have brought freedom and the power of the vote at great personal sacrifice to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The next time someone tells you America’s greatness has disappeared, that American Exceptionalism is only a figment of your imagination, or that all is lost and beyond hope, tell them there is always hope as long as we have the power of the vote and are not afraid to use it. I know It is easy to despair when our political leaders appear to be lost or even corrupt. As Paul Harvey used to say when the political outlook was bleak, In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these. It's up to all of us to follow leaders like Col. Crosswhite and leave a better nation for our kids.

As to the story of "G.I. Joe", another famous quote from Paul Harvey…”Now you know the rest of the story”.