Inking up the blogosphere. And no, I don't glow in the dark. But thanks for asking.

June 13, 2011

My New Hero

I read a news article today that made me proud to live in Oregon.  Proud to share the same geography as the extraordinary man named Robert Maxwell.  Mr. Maxwell is 90 years old, a WWII veteran, Oregon’s only living Medal of Honor recipient, and now the holder of a high school diploma – 73 years after the fact.

Here is the article from KTVZ news (bold emphasis in 8th paragraph mine):
BEND, Ore. -- He's the most highly decorated veteran in Oregon, but on Saturday, 90-year-old Bob Maxwell got an honor he's waited more than 70 years for.  On Saturday afternoon, Oregon's only living Medal of Honor recipient graduated with Bend Senior High School's Class of 2011.

At 15, he wasn't tromping down school hallways. In fact, he wasn't in school at all. After seventh grade, Maxwell was taken out of school to work on his family's farm in Kansas, during the Great Depression.  "It was just accepted in those days," Maxwell said Friday. "When a boy was old enough to do a man's work, that's what he did."

But don't call him a dropout. 

Maxwell's education didn't stop when he left school. He got his GED, even taught at Bend High back in the '50s.
One lesson the Medal of Honor recipient continues to teach every day -- modesty. He was awarded the medal of honor after he threw himself on a live grenade in France, saving the rest of his platoon from certain death.

"For him to consider walking with Bend High School as a great honor -- wow, we're the one honored," said BHS Principal H.D. Wedell. "Yet, because of his humility, he feels honored."

Honored, but not quite sure he deserved to toss his cap with the rest of the 2011 graduates.

"In some ways, I feel like it's a diploma that I haven't earned," Maxwell said. "But then I look back over the 73 years behind me, and I guess I have accumulated enough knowledge and skills to say that I've earned it."

A man with heroic accomplishments, yet still so humble. It's Maxwell's selflessness that allows his soon-to-be fellow graduates to chase the American dream.  "They can do that, because of the things that Bob has done," said Wedell. "He's laid his life down, so that our kids can be part of that."

But will there be room in Oregon's most decorated war veteran's home for his most recent award?  "I'm hoping to find a space on the wall to hang it up," said Maxwell. "It's a great honor."

 This is the most humbling thing I've heard in a really long time.  "...a diploma I haven't earned," -- Mr Maxwell:  I know kids who think they should automatically get an iPhone and unlimited text, talk, and web.  I know people who think they deserve 794 all-digital, HD channels as a matter of American Manifest Destiny.  For a man who knowingly, willingly, and unhesitatingly threw himself on a grenade; know this: YOU HAVE EARNED IT. You have earned this symbol of accomplishment and the right to be honored by us all because it has been paid for in blood, both yours and countless others.

Mr. Robert Maxwell of Bend, Oregon I thank you from the bottom of my heart.


***To read the Medal of Honor citation, head on over to This Ain't Hell.  Goosebumps.