Heroes are important. Their acts inspire us and teach us about selflessness.
Heroes are an integral part of the American fabric and are woven into every American holiday — including every November 11th, Veterans Day. If they are from our community, they give us an even greater sense of pride not only in mid-November, but throughout the year. Regretfully, the passing of time fades their story and often relegates it to historical records left to collect dust on library shelves. Therefore, I believe it is important for those who witness the hero’s act to keep their story alive — so that the heroes of Veterans Day past and present are the heroes of Veterans Days' future.
As a native Long-Islander and someone who’s called some of the world’s largest and most powerful cities home throughout my military career, I have chosen to call Charleston, West Virginia, my home for almost 25 years. By all standards, Charleston is small-town America despite being West Virginia’s largest city with a population slightly under 50,000. However, I am inextricably linked to a town that is only a tenth of the size of Charleston and a 900-mile drive to the northeast — Waldoboro, Maine.
Just shy of 30 years ago, on January 26, 1991, one of Waldoboro’s own, John Blodgett, performed an act of heroism that affected the lives of many. On that evening, the Marine Battalion that I led came under an Iraqi FROG (Free Rocket Over Ground) missile attack. Realizing that the battalion’s augmented-civilian-host-nation-truck drivers were in an unprotected area outside of the battalion perimeter, Staff Sergeant Blodgett, without regard for his own safety, ran 350 meters to direct them to a bunker. His immediate selfless response and extreme presence of mind under fire was heroic.
Like most Marines, John probably does not think of himself as a hero. Perhaps his action was born from a feeling of invincibility that is inherent in most young Marines. Regardless of the reason, he acted with courage and selflessness. I believe that he unconsciously knew he had to act — to do the right thing. John did not know any of the rescued civilians’ names nor could he even speak their language — there was nothing inherent in it for him to act. What John Blodgett did know—or, more aptly, who he was — led him to act. He knew he was a well-trained Marine with the hallmarks of discipline and spirit. He knew what his profession expected. He knew that civilian lives were at risk and he acted.
When the war was over, the Secretary of the Navy said in John’s medal citation that “…Staff Sergeant Blodgett’s exceptional professionalism, unfailing good judgment and extreme devotion to duty to his fellow Marines reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.” He also authorized John to wear the coveted Combat Distinguishing Device on his medal.
John Blodgett is a hero. Take some time out of your Veterans Day this year to thank the countless, unrecognized John Blodgetts for their service and sacrifice that serves to set an inspirational example for us all. May their legacy live forever.
Written by Robert Ferguson, of Charleston, W. Va., a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel and a former Cabinet Secretary in the Manchin administration.