“Hero” is a little-used word these days, and when it is used it is thrown about casually, applied to the pretty faces of prolefeed entertainers or the physical talent of some guys who throw a ball. That is, when it’s not used ironically, by hipsters who take joy in being far beyond such antiquated subjects as heroes.
There is no irony in calling Bud Day a hero, nor in saying that the day of his inevitable-one-day passing, which happened to come on Saturday, is a day that deserves the tolling of bells, the retelling of legends, and the display of an unprecedented level of national gratitude.
We won’t be having that, of course. Like most of America, our President and other national leaders admire Michael Vick, a soulless barbarian with a rare talent at ball-throwing, more than they would admire Day, if they’d ever heard his name. We live in a time when celebrity itself is the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card, when what consequences befall you depend on whether you can ask the arresting officer the question of the modern patrician: “Do you know who I am?”
As an example of the shameful ignorance of Day, here is the entire obituary notice posted on a local TV station’s website:
FORT WALTON BEACH – USAF COL (ret.) George E. “Bud” Day, a Medal of Honor winner, a WWII Marine, and Vietnam POW, passed away early Saturday morning in Ft. Walton Beach.
His wife, children and grandchildren were present. They had communion before Bud passed away.
The funeral is expected to be Thursday at the Emerald Coast Conference Center with burial at Barancas National Cemetary in Pensacola.
Day was considered by many to be a true war hero.
He was shot down in his Air Force F-100 in August, 1967 and was captured by the North Vietnamese and imprisoned as a POW at the “Hanoi Hilton”.
He spent 5 years and 7 months imprisoned with Navy Pilot John McCain, who also had shot down. The two were cellmates. McCain later went on to be a U.S. Senator.
No doubt the kid reporter who drafted this had no earthly idea who Day was, and yet the same media drone could almost certainly stack the Kardashians, total wastes of protoplasm that each one is, in order of birth and pass on a few salient facts about each one’s love life.
If you don’t know Day, you might not get steamed at this child’s writing: “Day was considered by many to be a true war hero.” That’s the product of a modern, values-neutral, university education talking. Maybe even the Columbia School of Journalism, but more likely a Columbia wannabe — they tend to be even smarmier than the real thing.
The reporterlet did at least link to this Air Force History page on Day. It’s a decent overview, but the man’s life is rather larger than that.
Here are a few facts about Day that you’re going to miss if you rely on the mainstream media, especially, God help you, TV or cable news, for information.
- With the passing of SF officer Bob Howard, with whom Day was roughly tied for decorations, Day became the undisputed most-decorated veteran of the Vietnam unpleasantness. (Note: nobody really keeps track of this, and anyone who is himself claiming to be the “most decorated” anything, or boasting about medals, is almost certainly a phony or exaggerator; in World War I parlance a “four-flusher.”)
- Bud continued working for veterans and service people until his health failed. Any good veterans’ cause could rely on him for a donation, a letter, or a personal appearance.
- He was a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. But all his valor awards are from Vietnam.
- He was a founding member of an elite fast FAC unit, the Misty FACs. Other Mistys include round-the-world-nonstop pilot Dick Rutan. They flew the F-100F Super Sabre, a plane that was already obsolete but carried a very large share of the air war.
- He was held prisoner — and tortured nearly to death — for over five and a half years.
- An example of his post-service activism? A lawsuit he filed to make the DOD keep promises of retiree health care, promises that had been abandoned by Pentagon suits, forced the Tricare for Life program that, albeit imperfectly, at least addresses these unkept promises.
For Bud’s own website, go to Colonel Bud Day.com. A great biography of the man is American Patriot by Robert Coram (best known for his influential John Boyd biography, which is available at Amazon (Kindle edition, also in other formats). His own two books are out of print but available in the secondary market: Return with Honor and Duty, Honor, Country. For a fantastic picture of Bud taken recently, standing in front of an F-100F like the ships he flew in combat, go to Robert Seale Photography (the next shot is a Day shot, too, and here’s Robert’s blog about the photoshoot, which yielded a Smithsonian Air&Space magazine cover). We really wanted to use one of Robert’s photos here (he has some with Bud and his son George, also a former fighter pilot!), but we don’t want to infringe his rights — he makes his living with his camera, after all. So go to his site and enjoy the pictures!
Not everybody liked Bud. Some years ago, he was a runner-up in the now-forgotten TV personality Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World” segment. This disappointed Bud; ever competitive, he felt cheated of the top honor. Unfortunately, Olbermann’s ratings terminated his TV run before the war hero and the failed sports- and newscaster could get a rematch.
The world was a better place with Bud Day in it, and even as our population climbs towards 7 billions, it’s a bit emptier without him.