On Dec. 17, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt held a famous press conference explaining his lend-lease scheme. “Suppose my neighbor’s home catches fire,” he beamed to an overwhelmingly hostile Congress. “If I have a length of garden hose that I can connect with his hydrant, I may help him to put out his fire. Now, what do I do? … We don’t have to have too much formality about it, but later I say to him, ‘I was glad to lend you that hose.'”
Row upon row upon row of American graves in European, North African and Asian cemeteries testify that we lent much more than a garden hose to (some pretty distant) neighbors.
In 1961 a literal next door neighbor had his house engulfed by flames. His wife and children screamed from the upstairs windows as the flames closed in. The desperate man’s face, arms and clothes were scorched as he ran and banged on his rich neighbor’s door. “Amigo!—POR FAVOR! PLEASE—Amigo!”
The rich neighbor who’d lent his hose to slight acquaintances on distant continents looked through the peephole, cringed and bolted the door. Then he scurried out the back door, rolled up his hose and locked it in his shed.
A guilt-stricken JFK finally ransomed back the Bay of Pigs prisoners. Hundreds of these promptly joined the U.S. Army and many volunteered for action in Vietnam. One of these was named Felix Sosa-Camejo.
By the day Mr. Sosa-Camejo died while rescuing a wounded comrade, he’d already been awarded 12 medals, including the Bronze Star, three Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts. I’ll quote from his official citation:
“On February 13, 1968, the lead platoon was hit by an enemy bunker complex manned by approximately forty North Vietnamese Regulars. Upon initial contact the point man was wounded and lay approximately 10 meters in front of the center bunker. The platoon was unable to move forward and extract the wounded man due to the heavy volume of fire being laid down from the enemy bunker complex.
“Captain Sosa-Camejo immediately moved into the firing line and directed the fire against the enemy bunker. With disregard for his safety, Captain Sosa-Camejo ran through the intense enemy fire and pulled the wounded point man to safety. After ensuring that the wounded man was receiving medical treatment, Captain Sosa-Camejo returned to the fire fight and again exposed himself to the intense enemy fire by single handedly assaulting the center bunker with grenades killing the two NVA soldiers manning the bunker. As he turned to assault the next bunker an NVA machine gun opened up and he was mortally wounded. Captain Sosa-Camejo’s valorous action and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.”
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