His family and friends, his neighbours and country, you and I now benefit from this man's heroism and we also share in his loss. Each Medal of Honor Day (March 25th) we need to take the time to remember the story of Charles Ernest Hosking Jr, and almost 3500 others that gave so much that their Commander if Chief, the highest ranking official in the country... their President... honoured them with the highest medal he... or someday hopefully... she... can award... The Medal of Honor!
In past blogs I have quoted form a speech General George Patton made in his last year of life. He was at a Memorial Day service at a military cemetery in Europe and said that... "In my mind, we are here to thank God, that men like this lived, rather than regret that they died."
We need to thank the "Snake" for living!
If you pick up the book by one of his daughters, Gail Hosking Gilberg, called... "Snake's Daughter: The Road In And Out Of War," you can read all about the incredible life that Charles led... and how he earned the nickname..."Snake."
Last Sunday I started to tell you about the Snake. He ran away from high-school and his New Jersey home, made it to Canada and enlisted in the famous infantry regiment known as The Black Watch. He was underaged but got in anyway. By fluke, after he was missing from home for about 3 months, he was found and with the help of a New Jersey Congressman, the wheels started turning and he was quickly released and sent home. But he ran away again and yet again headed north. This time he got stopped at the border and family again recovered him. Next we hear he was serving in the US Coast Guard... still underaged, and a few weeks before his 18th birthday he enlisted in the US Army, at Fort Dix NJ.
(Note...last week I received information correcting my statement in the last blog that the Black Watch was a special forces unit that followed in the footprints, if you will, of the famous First Special Service Force, AKA... the Devils' Brigade, of which you hopefully have recently read much in this space. I am now told that the Black Watch was a front line infantry unit and not related in any way with the brigade. Though no doubt due equal fame. (The unit I meant to mention in the last blog was in fact the Green Beret.)
This bulge in the line would be where heavy fighting eventually became known as the Battle of the Bulge and thousands of Allies found themselves knee deep in the horrid snow and chilling conditions of December and January. Charles Husking was one of these soldiers, and is shown above, still at an age too young to even vote. (Note the paratrooper wings he proudly wears.) Before the battle would be over in late January of 1945 Charles would be wounded. It was miner but he'd still be one of 75,000 Allied casualties. Almost 8,500 would be killed.
Another one of the wounded was a fellow who's name I hope you remember from past blogs. He was another Charles. But his surname was McGillivary and he was from PEI, Canada and his bravery in January at this very battle resulted in his being awarded a Medal of Honor. He would later also serve as President of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and play an important role in the design of MOH recipient's grave markers. (Including Husking's, many years later.)
"Snake" would survive the war and continue serving in the military for years to come. He had to sit out the Korean war due to leg injuries sustained during training excercises. He'd still be wearing the uniform of the day and would find his expertise being sought during the Cold War in Europe. But his boots would be soon back on the ground during the terrible Vietnam era.
Like so many Americans, Charles would serve multiple tours, his being three. He would fight within many groups and formations and would wear the internationaly famed green beret of the equally famous men depicted in 1968 by a fellow who the miltary rejected. But that fellow still did his bit for his country. His name was Marion Mitchell Morrison. But we all knew him by his stage name... John (the Duke) Wayne.
And two years before, from coast to coast in Canada and the US we were singing...
"Fighting soldiers from the sky,
Fearless men who jump and die,
Men who mean just what they say,
The brave men of the Green Beret..."
It started out as a poem written while a medic was recovering from his war wounds. That medic was a serving Master Sergeant in the Green Beret. His name was Barry Sadler and his song became #1 on the charts in 1966.
Have a listen... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSmUOj_CnrQ
It was March of 1967, as we were still singing... "fighting soldiers from the sky.' But Snake wasn't singing. His men were preparing a captured soldier for escort up the lines. He was a high valued prisoner as he was suspected, and later confirmed, to be a deadly enemy sniper.
A scuffle broke out and the prisoner managed to grab a grenade from Charles' belt, armed it and ran towards a group of four American soldiers. Charles immediately gave pursuit, jumped the man, crushed the grenade between the two in a bear hug and forced the man to the gound.
While the four other soldiers were saved, both Charles and the sniper were instantly killed. The date was 21 March, and that was 48 years ago last week!
His medal would be one of about 250 awarded for actions in Vietnam.
It was on Friday 23 May 1969 that President Nixon held a private ceremony in the oval office at the White House. (Reasons explained at left.) Two soldiers were presented Medals of Honor that day. Both were posthumous awards.
The Hosking family attending included Charles' mother, his children and a brother with family. While the song called for placing " wings on my son's chest," President Nixon in fact presented a Medal of Honor to Charles' 8 year old son Wesley. That medal still is in the proud possesion of the family in the United States.
A US historical group of which I am the only Canadian member, called the Medal of Honor Historical Scoiety of the US, has many objectives. One of these is to do its best to locate lost MOH recipients grave locations. They have a long list of success in this regard. Another is to try to have the newer versions of these markers set in place with the permission of descendants and cemeteries involved.
A key player in this work is a fellow named Don Morfe who has literally visited and photgraphed thousands of MOH grave sites over the years. He has also played a major role in the identifying of those graves that lack the notification that the soldier buried on the spot is a MOH recipient, and taking steps to do something about it. The Hosking new marker is yet another of his success stories. A few of the images in this very blog are originally taken by Don.
It should also be mentioned that it was the President of this very society... Mrs Gail Alvaraz that brought to my attention daughter Gail's book about her father and thus tipped me off on the fact that he originaly served with the Canadian Forces, albeit brief as that service was.
The community of Ramsey can also remember this hero as they drive along Hosking Way, named in his honour.
A famous Canadian statesman by the name of Joseph Howe played a key role in the creation of Freedom of the Press in Canada. He was also one of our Fathers of Confederation.
Mr. Howe once said that.... "A wise nation preserves its records, gathers up its monuments, decorates the tombs of its illustrious dead, repairs its great structures, and fosters national pride and love of country by perpetual references to the sacrifices and glories of the past."
Sometimes we must question if we are doing enough of this. The day is here when we must do much more.
Thank you Charles Husking for your service to mankind.
See you next week,
Bart Armstrong, CD