Horatius at the Gate
Then out spoke brave Horatius,
The Captain of the gate:
"To every man upon this Earth,
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better?
Than facing fearful odds.
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods."
What is a hero? The dictionary defines it as; "A man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble abilities." The pages of Alabama's history are filled with many such men and women. Men and women of distinguished courage and noble abilities that deserve our honor and respect.
True heroes cannot be found within the pages of a comic book. They cannot be found on the silver screen. They do not wear the jerseys of a sports team. They are men and women of self sacrifice and the determination to persevere in the gravest of situations. They stare death in the face with dignity. Such heroes are found in the halls of history in Alabama.
Many of these Alabamians have gave their all so that others may live. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice and given their very lives - the last true measure of devotion. Christ stated that there was no greater love than to lay down one's life for another. All of these have suffered or are currently suffering for the cause of freedom.
One such Alabama hometown hero was Sgt Brandon Hadaway of Valley, Alabama. He was serving with the 82 Airborne on May 30, 2007 in the Upper Sanguin Valley, Afghanistan. The Ch-47 Chinook he was aboard crashed after coming under fire from a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG). Rest in Peace warrior job well done!
Alabama lost another true life hero on March 28, 2014. Jeremiah Denton, a Mobile native born July 15, 1924 died at the age of 89 as a result of a heart ailment. Death is powerless to remove the memory of his accomplishments as an Alabama hero, a true conservative leader, and an honorable statesman.
During his Naval career Jeremiah Denton honed his military skill and leadership by attending:
- Spring Hill College
- U.S. Naval Academy
- National Defense University
- Naval War College
- George Washington University
He served as a test pilot, flight instructor, and squadron leader with the United States Navy. He was the Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron 75 operating off of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Independence (CVA-62) during the Vietnam War. During a July 18th bombing mission over Thanh Hoa, Vietnam; Denton's A-6A Intruder was shot down.
He was held as a U.S. Prisoner of War for 71/2 years. He was best known for blinking the word "TORTURE" during a 1966 televised press conference. He was kept at the infamous Hanoi Hilton, Zoo, Little Vegas, and Alcatraz prison camps. As a member of the Alcatraz Gang; he was influential in fomenting resistance among his fellow captives and led to his being held in solitary confinement. During his time as a POW Jeremiah Denton suffered unthinkable tortures designed to break his spirit and will to resist. Their designs were not as strong as the will of this Alabamian.
During his military career he earned:
- Navy Cross
- Silver Stars (3)
- Bronze Stars (5)
- Distinguished Service Medal
- Defense Service Medal
- Air Medal (2)
- Distinguished Flying Cross
- Purple Hearts (2)
- Prisoner of War Medal
- Combat Action Ribbon
Jeremiah Denton was freed from captivity as a part of Operation Homecoming and retired as a Rear Admiral in 1977. He released his detailed memoirs in 1976 entitled; When Hell Was In Session. He beat Jim Folsom, JR in 1980 to become the first Republican Senator since Reconstruction. Senator Richard Shelby (then a Democrat), beat him for the seat in 1986. Senator Shelby commented that; "Admiral Denton will long be remembered for his service to America. He was a war hero, an honorable Senator, and a family man who cared deeply about his country.
Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions paid tribute to Senator Jeremiah Denton on his passing on the Senate floor. Alabama salute another fallen hero this Memorial Day. Remember these brave men and women this Memorial Day. Learn of their deeds and keep their memory alive. Teach your children of their exploits and plant the seeds of a future generation. Real heroes can be found at your local library and at the Veterans Memorial in your Alabama town. Visit a local Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, or attend a local Memorial Day event in your community.
Give a handshake and a hearty thank you to the men and women there. Thank a vet daily for their service to you and the country. Our debt to them can never be truly re-payed but a thank you goes a long way.