Opinion

Babs couldn’t carry Bud’s ammo belt

It did irritate me, I must admit, that Barbra Streisand was awarded France’s Legion of Honor medal on the same day, June 28, one was being pinned on the chest of our own John D. “Bud” Hawk of Bremerton.

How many German tanks were knocked out because she dashed between tank destroyers to personally correct their range of fire the way Bud Hawk did, after he’d been shot in the leg? Bud’s score was two Tiger Royal tanks and a third that retreated.

How many enemy soldiers surrendered and were captured as a result of the actions she took? 500, like Bud?

Has she got four Purple Hearts and America’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, like Bud?

I felt a little better when I read that Valentino was a prior award winner from France, so there had to be two groups of honorees — the arts and the heroes.

France just started in 2005 honoring American veterans who came to its rescue in World War II. Foreigners are honorary members of the Legion, named chevaliers for exceptional merit and bravery.

Bud was one of Patton’s boys, a 19-year-old PFC when he showed the heroism and initiative that earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. President Truman came to Olympia on June 22, 1945, to make the award.

There was no shortage of love for Bud in the ceremony at the Naval Undersea Museum at Keyport. French Consul General Frederic Desagneaux came up from San Francisco to do the honors and called him “dear John Hawk” three times, lauding his “extraordinary level of courage and bravura.”

He got several standing ovations. Admirals and captains and a slug of just plain sailors in their summer whites fussed over him, along with a bunch of his friends.

I hadn’t seen him for quite a while, but he was pretty jaunty for 83. I’ve known him from way back. I wrote the story when his 7-year-old son was struck by a car and killed on his way to school, the lowest point of Bud’s life.

My husband and I ran into him many times out at Joe Emel’s Scenic Beach Resort near Seabeck, now a state park.

Bud always came in with fish. He never, however, would tell where he got them or what he was using for bait. One of his friends who looks after him a bit now, Lynn Eathorne, tells me he’s still like that. Won’t tell you a damned thing about where and how he catches fish.

I saw and wrote about him occasionally during the 31 years he spent as an educator, much of it as a school principal at Tracyton and Brownsville.

He’s a little deaf now, but his mind is still sharp.

He’s no hero, he said. “I came because I was called and I did the best I could,” he said. “You do what you can. You take action without regard to your personal consequences. Courage is not a lack of fear, it’s how you handle fear. I believe that’s called patriotism, a readiness and willingness to serve.”

The medals he’s received didn’t just belong to him, he said, “They belong to everyone that has, does and will serve. The thing about these decorations is that they lead people to expect things you may not be capable of. I am not a hero. The heroes are not here. I’m also not a winner. There are no winners in war. There are only relative losers. When we get there, we do the best we can.”

Here’s to you, Chevalier Hawk. When we sent you to war, we sent the best we had.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at PO Box 69, Hansville, WA 98340.

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