Even before I was hired at PJTV in September, I had wanted to do a series of interviews with veterans. And now, finally, I am very proud to announce the first episode of A SOLDIER’S STORY.
Leon Cooper was 22 years old when he commanded a wave of Higgins boats in the shallow waters off of Tarawa. Due to one of the most tragic miscalculations of the war, the tidal information was incorrect and the first waves of boats could not clear the reefs… leaving hundreds of teen-aged Marines 700 yards offshore, wading through waist-deep water wearing 100 pound packs, into the teeth of 8 inch naval guns, mortars, machine guns and small arms fire.
Leon Cooper saw the whole thing. And after surviving his first trip into that bloody nightmare, he had to turn around, head back out to the troop ship, and bring fresh young men into the meatgrinder. Again and again.
That would be enough for any 22 year old. But after surviving Tarawa, Leon began training to do it again — which he did, at a tiny speck in the Pacific called Iwo Jima.
Part I of Leon Cooper’s Soldier Story — Tarawa — can be found here. Part 2 will deal with Iwo Jima and the Atomic Bombs, and Part 3 will follow his Return to Tarawato discover a battlefield covered in garbage and human waste, and the unspeakable disgrace of having hundreds of fallen American heroes — including a man posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor — buried under parking lots and septic tanks.
There are somewhat graphic images, and a few moments of salty language — but this is something I would encourage you to watch with your families, simply because it is so heartbreaking. If we do not often remember the cost of our freedoms, we will surely lose them. Listening to what these boys did for us — and that’s what they were: teen-aged boys, for the most part — brought home to me the debt we owe these remarkable men. It is the very least we can do to listen to their stories. They are amazing stories, funny and tragic and full of wisdom, and I mean to tell as many of them as I can, from World War 2 up through the present.
But to do that, I will need your help. If you feel as strongly about these segments as I do, would you help us get them seen by emailing as many people as you can, by copying and pasting the following link:
I would never ask this for myself, but I am asking you now for Leon and for all of the millions of other heroes that surround us in line at the grocery store or sitting in the next car on the highway. Their greatest quality is their almost universal humility, which is what I admire most about them even as I realize it is the reason we hear so little of their enormous sacrifice. My ability to continue this series — which is very labor- and time-intensive on my part — will depend on the segements getting enough views to make the game worth the candle.
And if any of you would care to leave coments for Leon in the comment section, I will collect and forward them to him as a small token of the gratitude you will certainly feel once you hear his amazing story.