Honoring a Black Sheep
Gregory "Pappy" Boyington went to high school in Tacoma, Wash., then on to the University of Washington (1930-34) where he was in the ROTC program and majored in engineering. He worked summers in an Idaho gold mine to help pay his way through college and became a draftsman for Boeing Aircraft upon graduation.
One year later, he joined the Marines where he was a flight instructor for six years and later volunteered to be a "Flying Tiger" pilot in China and Burma. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Boyington saw action in the South Pacific where he was credited with shooting down 28 Japanese aircraft, a World War II record for a Marine pilot.
On the day of his 28th kill, Boyington was shot down by a Japanese Zero fighter and eventually picked up by an enemy submarine. He spent 20 months in a prisoner of war camp where he suffered frequent beatings and near starvation. For some reason, his whereabouts were never reported to the Allies by the Japanese and he was listed as missing in action. On Aug. 28, 1945, his prison camp was liberated.
Along with the Navy Cross, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by Franklin Roosevelt.
Boyington led a turbulent life. He was a heavy drinker, went through a series of failed marriages and bounced from one job to another (beer salesman, stock salesman, jewelry salesman and wrestling referee).
In 1958, he wrote a book about his World War II exploits at an airfield in the New Hebrides titled Baa Baa, Black Sheep. In it, he described how he had to form a squadron of fighter pilots from a group of raw replacement pilots, dubbed "The Black Sheep Squadron." In 1976, the book was made into an NBC TV series starring Robert Conrad as Pappy Boyington. The series, difficult and expensive to produce, lasted only two years.
Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, American hero and troubled soul, died in 1988. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. At the end of his memoir, he wrote, "Just name a hero and I'll prove he's a bum."
Recently, a University of Washington senior and former Air Force weather forecaster, Andrew Everett, presented a resolution to the college's student senate suggesting the school honor Boyington with a small statue.
However, this proposal was rebuffed by members of the student Democratic Party on the student senate. According to the minutes of the meeting, Ashley Miller argued, "Many monuments at UW already commemorate rich, white men."
Jill Edwards stated she didn't "believe a member of the Marine Corps was an example of the sort of person UW wanted to produce." One member of the senate even referred to Boyington as "a murderer."
Perhaps the world already has too many statues honoring people who have performed heroic acts, but the reasoning behind this rejection is astonishing. Some of these students are in dire need of a brain transplant.
First of all, Boyington was never rich and he was part Sioux Indian. To protest honoring him because he is rich and white is both incorrect and blatant bigotry. Rejecting a person based on that person's social status and ethnicity is a prime example of how far certain people will sink to ensure special privileges for those who don't earn it.
Bigotry is a two-way street, and a liberal, naive, immature, politically-correct bigot is still a bigot.
Discriminating against Boyington because he was a Marine is another example of bigotry. And to call him a murderer is inexcusable. Killing another human being, during the course of a world war, when that person is aggressively trying to kill you is not murder -- it's called self-preservation.
When the schoolyard bully or street thugs or vengeful terrorists or international evil empires accost you, you only have two choices -- you can do nothing (make love, not war) and allow them to violate you at their pleasure, or you can fight back. War is an ugly, unfortunate fact of life, but sometimes it's a necessity.
It's easy to assume that if you're nice to the rest of the world, it will be nice to you, but the world is not made out of sugar and spice and everything nice. When you grow up, reality will set in and self-preservation will take over.
Pappy Boyington was just another guy stumbling through life. He was also a hero and deserves our respect.
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Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels, which are available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.