Skip to comments.Brother of Saluted Soldier writes in
Posted on 09/28/2001 7:51:12 AM PDT by Weatherman123
On Wednesday, a most amazing story came to us from Rich Galen's online news letter called Mullings. It was a very heartwarming and touching story about the president of the United States visiting Lieutenant Colonel Brian Birdwell in a burn unit. This soldier had been burned over 50% of his body in the terrorist assault on the Pentagon. There were no cameras or microphones around to record this, as a spontaneous George W. Bush saluted the junior officer and held the salute until the badly injured young man could respond.
This is the exact opposite, so we were told, of military protocol, which calls for junior officers to salute their superiors. So by saluting the injured lieutenant colonel, and holding it until it was returned, the president elevated his rank above Bush's own as commander-in-chief. You can read the complete story below, and once you do, you'll see why it meant so much to me to receive an e-mail Thursday from Lieutenant Colonel Birdwell's brother thanking me for relaying the story.
"I cannot tell you how grateful and truly proud I am that when Brian started to return that salute, despite his wounds, the president held his salute firmly and thereby permitted my brother the honor of demonstrating his and the true character of so very many others of our fighting men and women. Indeed, you should know that it was this very character that likely saved Brian's life in the first place. As Brian crawled through the fire, certain brave men and women pulled him from the carnage, carried him out to the parking lot, then into the adjoining street."
The e-mail closes saying: "The simple act of holding a salute evidences a quality of character and leadership in our president sorely needed in the coming conflict. So on behalf of my little brother - a true patriot of whom I cannot be prouder - I venture to say that his willingness to endure the pain and the discomfort required to return the president's salute evidences an even greater willingness and resolve on the part of his compatriots to follow wherever the president leads, confident that he has the country's, and therefore their own, best interests at heart.
Sincerely, Wade Birdwell older brother of Lieutenant Colonel Brian Birdwell
Wade, thanks for this note. It's just an accident of fate that I got this. I get roughly 10,000 e-mail notes a day in my inbox. Nobody accesses it other than me. There are an amazing number of people that don't believe that, even though I've stated it I don't know how many times. There's no system. Now, I don't read them all; it's just not possible. But the subject line on your mail is what got me, "My little brother, Lieutenant Colonel Brian Birdwell." When that caught my eye, I knew I had to read that. It's a pleasure to get your note. Thanks very much. I appreciate your sentiments, and wish your brother a fast and complete recovery.
Rich Galen, who used to run GOPAC and now has an online newsletter called Mullings, published an e-mail somebody sent him about a story published in Officer Christian Fellowship. It really, really puts the perspective of this president in total focus. The e-mailer writes a story about the president's visit to one of the military officers injured during the Pentagon attack. Here's the letter:
I just came from an informal, outdoor memorial service that MG Van Antwerp gave for the two ladies from ACSIM that were lost last week. It was quite moving. The families were there and it was clear that this meant a lot to them. The General has a sincere way of sharing his own faith that helps lift everyone's spirits.
What I wanted to share, however, was a vignette General Van related about the President and the general's executive officer who was badly burned over 50% of his body. General Van said that the President visited LTC Brian Birdwell at Washington Hospital Center. He spent time talking with Brian. He prayed with Brian, and then as he was getting ready to leave, he went to the foot of Brian's bed and saluted him.
The President then held that salute as Brian, with burned and bandaged arms, ever so slowly returned the salute. It wasn't hard to picture the scene in my mind, and I think it says a lot about our Commander-in-Chief.
Picture that, and remember that there were no cameras or microphones around, just an eyewitness who saw it. Therefore it did not happen for history or posterity. It happened because the president of the United States respected Lieutenant Colonel Brian Birdwell enough to go to the foot of the bed and hold the salute, knowing how difficult it was for the soldier to respond in kind. This was President Bush's paying of the deepest respect to Brian Birdwell, and also inspiring and motivating.
After I related this story, I received an e-mail from a member of the military who led me to more fully understand the true significance of this. He wrote, "As the commander-in-chief, President Bush never first initiates the salute. So the statement when the president salutes you does not apply. The only case where a president is expected to initiate a salute is to a Medal of Honor winner. So Bush is acting out of deepest respect when he initiates a salute. Lieutenant Colonel Birdwell is under no compunction to return a salute from the president. However, he did, since it was the mark of respect to the person initiating the salute, in this case, the president of the United States."
That's a new one to me, too. If the president salutes you, you don't have to return it? Okay. For those of you in the military, I deeply apologize for my ignorance. The e-mailer concludes, "Lastly, Bush held the salute when he saw Lieutenant Colonel Birdwell begin to respond. To have dropped the salute would have pointed up Birdwell's injury. It's a testament to the respect that Bush had, that he put his life on hold for as long as it took for Lieutenant Colonel Birdwell to return the salute. Just thought you'd like to know, Rush."
I've received a couple of other e-mails such as this. "Rush, something even more dramatic. Not only did our president salute the lieutenant colonel, but military customs and courtesies demand that the personnel with lower rank always salute a superior first and then hold it until a superior salutes back. Our president was holding an inferior-ranked individual in higher regard than his own rank - that of the supreme commander of the United States."
Lieutenant Colonel Birdwell will never, ever forget this, because I'll bet you he did something he thought he couldn't do that day, through the pain and the bandages. The president held that salute until he returned it, an ultimate display of love and respect, with nobody around to see it. What is it J.C. Watts always says, "Character is doing the right thing when nobody is watching."
I'm an Air Force Brat, my father served 25 years. It feels so good to finally have a CIC that deserves the honor, after 8 years of Clintoon.
I love President Bush!!
Both good men
First, a salute is rendered as a sign of respect. It is supposed to be initiated by the junior ranking individual.
Second, a salute rendered, even in error, is supposed to be returned. What this means is, if you see someone, and think you see officer insignia and salute, they should return the salute, even though you weren't obligated to render it.(This doesn't really apply, as Pres Bush clearly didn't render this salute in error)
Third, The LTC wouldn't have been obligated to return the salute (regardless of my Second point above) because he was obviously physically infirm. There are rules about salutes that state if your hands are full, if you are under arms, if you're using crutches, yada, yada, you should give a verbal greeting, but don't have to return/render a salute.
Fourth, This story is telling BOTH for Pres Bush, who wanted to show respect for someone who he felt deserved it (and in my opinion showing he's one of us instead of the elite Toon tried to be a part of) and the LTC who felt honored and respected BY his CIC. The LTC here, regardless of his physical condition, WANTED to return the salute.
I'd have returned the salute with a tear in my eye.
I love him, too! And his advisors, staff and family. I am so grateful to our Father in heaven that such a man of honor and integrity was leading our nation during it's horrendous dark hour of terror.
for our great President. We are very lucky to have him at this time in history.