Friday, September 05, 2003

Jessica Lynch, Million Dollar Baby

Jessica Lynch gets a million dollar book deal for her story. She couldn't make the deal while she was still in the Army, so they gave her a medical discharge a few days ago, and her book contract was announced the next day. Is this the same story she couldn't remember after it happened? Come to think of it, I don't remember anything about the ambush and rescue, either -- can I have my million now?

Meanwhile, Randy Kiehl, father of another member of the 507th Maintenance Company, Army Specialist James Kiehl, calls Jessica a "profiteer" who "makes money off the death of my son and off the deaths of so many others."

I disagree. Her story was going to be told whether she told it or not. In fact, NBC is going ahead with an unauthorized TV movie about her. She has every right to tell her story -- whatever it is -- and if she can get that huge advance, that's between her and the publisher. She's far from the first soldier to try to turn a war story into a bestseller.

But the oft-repeated notion that Jessica Lynch is a "hero" sickens me. We overuse that word far too much, just as we do "genius." Tupac Shakur wasn't a genius, and Jessica Lynch wasn't a hero. Worse, most of the oh-so-dramatic original "facts" of the Lynch story that were so overhyped in the media turned out to have never happened -- to her at least.

The real hero of the An Nasiriyah ambush was an Army sergeant named Donald Walters. But, unless you're a regular listener of my show, you haven't heard his name pumped up in the media because he's not a cute, All-American southern girl who got caught up in the hell that is war. No, Donald Walters was just a brave American man who really did empty his gun at the enemy to defend his combat colleagues during the ambush, and ended up getting left behind in the desert to die.

Maybe we're still too queasy about women in combat. If so, we need to get over it.

I've also never understood why we give extra honors to soldiers who are injured in combat. The Purple Heart is considered something special. There's a POW medal, too. Should they be considered more valuable than the normal commendation medals, the ones given to members of the military who come home safe and in one piece. Is there a ribbon that says, "Congratulations, you went to war and didn't get hurt"?

They even gave Jessica Lynch a Bronze Star! That's supposed to be awarded for acts of heroism or to a soldier who "distinguished himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service." What did Lynch do to deserve that?

Don't get me wrong here. I'm not denigrating anyone who wears the uniform and serves well where and when they're told to serve. I don't want to do it, and I'm awfully glad we have tens of thousands of Americans who do. I thank all of them for their service. However, we need to cut back on the hero worship when it's misplaced -- as it is in the Jessica Lynch case, to the tune of a million bucks.

Think they'll work that argument into the book or movie? You'll have to let me know, since I won't read it or see it.