America is a nation built on the legends of countless heroes, great dudes and lady dudes who we learn about damn near from birth. These almost mythic heroes dominate our understanding about what it means to be American. But what about all those heroes no one ever talks about? Indeed, for every George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, there are thousands upon thousands of heroes who made this weird American experiment work, so with Memorial Day approaching I think we should all take a moment to remember a few of them.
Robert L. Howard
Robert L. Howard was a Vietnam Vet who during his time in the Special Forces racked up an incredible list of honors: the Congressional Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, four Bronze Stars, and eight (!) Purple Hearts. The crazy thing is he may actually have been shorted on that last one because he was wounded fourteen different times.
He was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor three different times in a thirteen month period, which is pretty fucking incredible when you consider that the sort of extraordinary heroism required to be even nominated usually requires a profound act of self-sacrifice that often ends in death. He did it three times, and the only reason he didn’t win the first two times is because his missions were covert, and thus “off the record” so to speak.
He’s been called the real-life Rambo, and the only reason he isn’t a legit folk-hero is probably because of the, uh, complicated nature with which we deal with the Vietnam War as a country. But this dude risked it all, and kept coming back for more, not for himself, not for glory, but because his bros needed him, and because that’s what heroes do.
No one in this country is revered more than the Founding Fathers, who are treated more like gods than human beings. But not many people remember Joseph Warren, and that’s because unlike the rest of the Founding Fathers, he actually gave his life for his young country. A Major-General, Warren decided to fight as a Private, alongside his men, at the Battle of Breed’s Hill, where he died in 1775, just as the Revolutionary War was kicking off.
But there might not have even been a Revolutionary War without Joseph Warren.
He was the President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, which means he was the leader of what was arguably the most important group involved in the fight for independence. He’s also the dude who sent Paul Revere on his famous ride, and had he lived, he would have probably been just as big a figure as Adams or Jefferson. But he died, fighting in the mud with his countrymen, when he could have just hid in the background. Joseph Warren was a goddamn boss.
Philo T. Farnsworth
Why is Philo T. Farnsworth a hero? He invented the television. You the real MVP, Philo.
But it’s kind of amazing that Philo T. Farnsworth isn’t that well known. Part of it is because he never really got the credit he deserved during his lifetime. If he did, we’d probably talk about him in the same way we talk about Thomas Edison. That’s because, in addition to the television, Farnsworth held over 300 patents, and some of these inventions later led to things like radar and the electron microscope.
But really, it’s all about the TV. Sweet, sweet TV. Without Philo T. Farnsworth, you’d never have been able to watch Tony Soprano. You’d never know about Walter White. You’d never be able to watch Game of Thrones. My god, this may be the greatest man who ever lived.
Dr. Charles R. Drew
Sometimes, the real heroes are the dudes and lady dudes working behind the scenes to save the lives of those on the front lines. And no one contributed to that cause more than Dr. Charles R. Drew, who during World War II pioneered the blood banks we all take for granted today. It was his efforts that directly led to saving lives on the battlefield with blood transfusions, and from that, the Red Cross developed the concept of donating blood, which is something we all take for granted today.
Sadly, Dr. Drew never really got the credit he deserved. Why? Well, to be blunt, it was because he was black. But it was also because he argued against the Red Cross’ early policy of blood-segregation, which wouldn’t allow blood from a black donor to be given to a white dude, or vice versa. His efforts probably helped that nonsense to end earlier than it otherwise would have, which means that Dr. Drew not only transformed battlefield medicine, he also aided in the end of segregation.
No, I’m not talking about Ned Stark’s bastard son. I’m talking about the Revolutionary War General who helped show America that they could not only fight the British, but that they could actually win.
Stark was a farmer and an old vet, who like George Washington, had been a hero of the old French and Indian War. When he heard that the British were on the verge of breaking the fragile American army in Massachusetts, he rushed down from New Hampshire with his boys and inflicted such heavy losses on the British that they couldn’t fully capitalize on what should have been a rout, which allowed the Americans to survive and to regroup for future ass-kickings.
After the war, and even more heroism that would take too long to recount here, Stark chose to completely withdraw from public life, and is noted as being the only founding father to do so, which is probably why he isn’t better remembered. But, in a letter to his old comrades, which he sent because he wasn’t well enough to travel to see them, he wrote “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of all evils,” which went on to be the state motto of New Hampshire, and pretty much summed up the whole point of the country he helped to create.
I will keep this short and to the point: Louis Lassen invented the hamburger. Bless you, sir. Bless you.
Frances Perkins’ list of accomplishments is staggering. She was the first female cabinet member, serving as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor, and while she was there, she completely transformed America.
It was Frances Perkins who was at the forefront of FDR’s New Deal policies. She created social security, unemployment benefits, the minimum wage, and made the 40 hour work-week standard. She also fought to end child labor, and basically kept the economy going during World War II, when the country faced a tremendous labor shortage back home. Her efforts played a major role in helping us win it all and become champions of Earth.
Look, whatever your political beliefs, you cannot deny the impact that Frances Perkins had on the United States of America. She was FDR’s right-hand woman, and without her, the whole damn thing might have collapsed and we’d all be speaking German. But she was there, and thanks to her, America not only survived, it thrived.
Vinton Cerf And Bob Khan
Fuck Al Gore, these are the real fathers of the internet. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, and dozens of people probably deserve credit for the internet, but Vint Cerf and Bob Khan are the dudes who developed the backbone of the internet and allowed it to become the monster that it is today.
In the early 70s, Cerf and Khan developed the Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol, better known as TCP/IP, which are the communication protocols which lets the internet be, well, the internet.
You wouldn’t even be reading this right now if it wasn’t for them, which I think we can all agree would be the biggest tragedy in this nation’s history. Think about how much you use the internet and how central it is to your daily life. Everything from BroBible to Netflix exists because of what they did. You should have a goddamn statue of them in your home.
In 1765, Hercules Mulligan joined the Sons of Liberty, which is where the seeds of what became America were planted. But aside from being an O.G. patriot, Hercules Mulligan was also Alexander Hamilton’s roommate, and convinced him to dump the British and come over to the good guys, which, uh, was kind of an important moment in American history.
During the war itself, Hercules Mulligan served as a spy in New York City, gathering valuable intelligence that helped America win its freedom, and which saved the life of George Washington on two separate occasions. Yeah, this guy was the man.
Oh, and did I mention that his name is fucking Hercules? I mean, if you can’t celebrate a dude named Hercules Mulligan on Memorial Day, then what’s the point? And so, on this Memorial Day, take a moment to remember ol’ Hercules, along with the rest of the heroes we’ve talked about, and then spare a thought or many thoughts for the countless heroes who will never be written about, whose names are remembered by only a few close loved ones, if that, and honor them, because that’s what Memorial Day is all about.
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