Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wrestling Heroes - Volume 3


Tommy Norris was twice an ACC wrestling champion for the University of Maryland. After graduation he enlisted in the Navy in hopes of becoming a pilot. Unfortunately, vision problems kept him from flying. Instead – he became a SEAL.

Lt. Col. Iceal (Gene) Hambleton was an intelligence expert who was flying a reconnaissance mission over Viet Nam in April, 1972 when his aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile. Lt. Colonel Hambleton was the only one of the six-man crew able to eject. The rest were killed.

Hollywood made a movie “based on a a true story”, called Bat 21 about the rescue of Iceal Hambleton.

Because the real story of this mission remained classified at the time of the movie, Lieutenant Thomas Norris and his Vietnamese “frogmen” get no mention in the movie. Lt. Norris and his small team twice went well beyond enemy lines to effect the rescue of, first, Lt. Mark Clark and then Lt. Colonel Hambleton. For his actions, Lt. Thomas Norris was awarded, against his own objections, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Six months later, Tommy Norris would again be sent on a rescue mission behind enemy lines. This time Lt. Norris would not escape unscathed. Suffering a severe head wound, Lt. Norris was given up for dead by all but SEAL team member, Michael Thornton. Thornton refused evacuation from the enemy ambush – “not without my lieutenant”. Thornton found Tommy Morris with a part of his head blown away by enemy fire and carried him to his rescue. For his actions on that October day, Michael Thornton became the first person to be awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing another Medal of Honor winner.

The complete story of these actions can be read at homeofheroes.com.

Since Milo of Croton, wrestlers have been among those that have answered the call when a nation has needed it’s warriors to fight for freedom. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum is filled with Distinguished Members who have served the United States when most needed. J Robinson, Josiah Henson, Bill Smith, Gerry Leeman, Greg Gibson and many others came to our country’s aid in times of war.

The Hall of Fame has begun work on an exhibit called Glory Beyond Sport: Wrestling and the Military which is scheduled for launch in February, 2009. Plans are for the exhibit to travel for a year and then become permanent at the Hall. Executive Director, Lee Roy Smith, has asked for your help with this project. If you know of anyone who has distinguished themselves both in wrestling and in the military, please contact the Hall of Fame at www.wrestlinghalloffame.org.

When we send young men and women off to war we owe them – at least our respect and our thanks – and perhaps so much more.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes during this week to remember those that have sacrificed so that we may have our freedom.

Written in memory of Korean War veteran Sgt. Arthur Brown Jr. Thanks, Dad.



Strongboy770 said...

Very humbling to read. We think we have it rough until we read something like this. A big Thank You to all the men and women who sacrifice so much so we could live in freedom.

Jim Brown said...

Thanks for reading.