Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Death of Heroes

December 10, 1941 was a momentous day for Colin P. Kelly. On that day he piloted a B-17C Flying Fortress in an attack off the Philippines to repel the invading Japanese. He stayed at the controls of his damaged plane as the rest of his crew parachuted to safety. The bomber exploded before Kelly could escape. In early reporting, Colin Kelly was credited with sinking the Japanese battleship Haruna. Colin Kelly became a hero. Later investigation revleaed IJN Haruna had not been sunk at Kelly's hands, but Kelly's heroism of staying with his mortally stricken plane so his men could live can not be diminished.

In 2004 in the dusty dry foreign land called Afghanistan, another American hero was killed. Pat Tillman, like great players in WWII, turned in his Cardinal's jersey and helmet for a different uniform in 2002. He became a US Army Ranger which took him to a distant country. And it was there that Tillman had his appointment with death. At first, like in WWII, the reports stated Tillman had been killed in action against the Taliban. Then it emerged he suffered a fate like Butch O'Hare, killed in combat due to friendly fire. Even this truth does not detract from the courage and selflessness of Pat Tillman, he turned his back on what many think of as being important to answer his country's call. And he paid the ultimate price for holding those beliefs.

Now we have the story of another American hero who has died in a foreign land. Jamie Zapata was working with fellow ICE agent Victor Avila in war ravaged Mexico. Then one night they were hit in an ambush. Zapata was killed while Avila lived. The tragedy of this hero's death is the lack of information on how he died. The Departmeent of Justice is refusing to tell Zapata's family all the details for fear of compromising some unnamed investigation. Come now, Zapata's family deserves to know the truth.

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