Journalists and pop-culture bloggers alike have had their hands full the past couple of weeks, what with the uncivil, now-infamous outbursts from Rep. Joe Wilson and Kanye West sucking the life out of the airwaves.I’m not sure what disturbs me more: that a House Representative would feel justified in heckling the President of the United States with a playground taunt, or that said Representative’s unbridled petulance would be upstaged by that of a narcissistic rapper at the Mtv Video Music Awards, for crying in the soup. Just as I was about to throw up my hands in disgust, exclaiming, “This country is on a greased toboggan to hell!” I came upon the stories of SFC Jared Monti and Mr. Max Fuchs.
SFC Jared Monti was 30 years old when he was killed in Afghanistan in 2006. One of Monti’s men, PFC Brian Bradbury, had been wounded and was lying in the open, exposed to enemy fire. Monti’s 16-man patrol was outnumbered and under heavy fire. After placing a call for more artillery and air support, Monti made three attempts to rescue Bradbury. He was killed on his final attempt. His last words were of God and his family. SFC Jared Monti received the Congressional Medal of Honor on September 17, 2009.
Some 62 years earlier, Max Fuchs fought on Omaha Beach in WWII. The child of Polish immigrants, Mr. Fuchs had lost family members during the Nazis’ invasion of Poland. According to the New York Times, Mr. Fuchs had studied to be a cantor, but “wanted to fight the Nazis.”
On October 29, 1944, NBC radio broadcast the first Jewish religious service from Aachen, Germany. The service took place near the front line; explosions and gunfire are clearly audible throughout the radio broadcast. 22-year-old Private First Class Max Fuchs knew that he was the only one present capable of serving as cantor. Now 87, Mr. Fuchs recalls, “I was just as much scared as anyone else, but since I was the only one who could do it, I tried my best.” Today, on Rosh Hashanah, Mr. Fuchs will be singing at his Upper West Side synagogue, at the insistence of his rabbi.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if the heroes among us got as much airtime as the spotlight-hogging loudmouths? Then again, Jared Monti was known for being “embarrassed in the limelight,” and Max Fuchs never sought recognition for his role in NBC’s historic WWII broadcast. It seems that heroism and humility go hand in hand.
There are no words strong enough to express fully the awe and gratitude that Jared Monti and Max Fuchs inspire. Flowery platitudes would probably embarrass them, anyway. And so I offer simply: Thank you, and Shanah Tovah.