Humbled by An American Hero

~What is a hero? Speaker and author Carl Mays takes a look at an American hero, brought back from our archives for your 4th of July inspiration~

When I spoke at a banquet a couple of weeks ago, I told the audience I had an easy and rewarding task. I was engaged to motivate, inspire, and entertain about 300 American heroes. It was reminiscent of 2001, when shortly after September 11th I spoke at a banquet honoring firefighters and emergency personnel. This more recent occasion was a U.S. Army Reserve Surgeons Symposium. Attendees had been in Iraq and other foreign lands – and on alert to be deployed.

Judging from their response and the standing ovation I received, apparently they enjoyed and appreciated my talk as much as I enjoyed presenting it. As I remained in the hotel ballroom long after the banquet concluded, signing copies of my A Strategy For Winning book acquired for attendees by the U.S. Army Reserve Command, I felt I was more impressed by their service and dedication than they might ever realize. To me, the entire group was well represented by Alfred Rascon. He was recognized at the banquet and was among those who asked me to sign a book. I was humbled when he did. Alfred Rascon is a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for extraordinarily courageous acts on March 16, 1966.

Specialist Fourth Class (now Major) Rascon distinguished himself while serving as a medic in Vietnam. His platoon was in the process of aiding a sister battalion when hit by heavy fire. A point machine-gunner was severely wounded and lying on an open enemy trail when Rascon sprang into action. Disregarding his own safety, he raced through enemy fire and exploding grenades to reach his hurt comrade. Intentionally placing his body between the soldier and enemy machine guns, he sustained numerous shrapnel injuries and a serious hip wound. But he ignored his own injuries and pain as he dragged the larger soldier from the fire-raked trail.

Rascon then heard the second machine-gunner yell that he needed ammunition. Rascon crawled back to the rescued soldier, took his bandoleers of ammunition, and delivered them to the desperate machine-gunner. Fearing that the abandoned gun, its ammunition, and spare barrel would fall into enemy hands, Rascon rushed to retrieve them. During this quest, he was hit in the face and torso by grenade fragments but continued to recover the abandoned weaponry, enabling another soldier to provide much-needed firepower for the pinned-downed squad.

Rascon then saw the point grenadier hit by enemy fire. He raced to cover him with his body, absorbed the full force of the exploding grenades, and saved the soldier’s life. Then, as grenades were being thrown at the wounded point squad leader, Rascon repeatedly exhibited disregard for his own life and wrapped his body around this soldier. He was critically injured again by shrapnel but continued to search for and aid the wounded. After the enemy finally broke contact, Rascon refused treatment for his wounds while aiding others and directing their evacuation. Only after being placed on a rescue helicopter did he allow someone to tend to him.

Even though Rascon’s battalion mates immediately recommended him for the Medal of Honor, they discovered years later the paperwork was misplaced and he never received the award. Because considerations must be made within two years, it appeared he would never get it. However, soldiers who witnessed “Doc” in action and were saved by these actions continued to push for the recognition. He finally received it on February 8, 2000 – thirty-four years later.

Words on Alfred Rascon’s commendation read in part: “Specialist Fourth Class Rascon’s extraordinary valor in the face of deadly enemy fire, his heroism in rescuing the wounded, and his gallantry by repeatedly risking his own life for his fellow soldiers are in keeping with the highest traditions in the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.”

Alfred Rascon, born in Mexico and now an American hero, represents true patriots of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. While some people talk and write about all that is wrong with America and her citizens, Major Rascon symbolizes what is right with our country and with those who are proud to be Americans.

Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 3,000 events, can be contacted at or 865-436-7478. His books, including A Strategy For Winning, People of Passion, Anatomy Of A Leader, Are We Communicating Yet? and Winning Thoughts, are available in stores, on and other Internet locations.

Originally published on CA on Feb. 23, 2005

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