November 11, 2013, - 4:14 pm
Incredible Navy SEAL’s Vietnam Heroism Finally Gets Monument: When One Medal of Honor Recipient Rescues Another
Navy SEAL Mike Thornton (of SEAL Team Two) is one of those great Americans whose valiant efforts we celebrate today on this Veterans Day. Now, there is finally a statue–an awe-inspiring one–to his heroism to go with his incredible valor in Vietnam.
WATCH THE VIDEO . . .
Under heavy gunfire from dozens of North Vietnamese soldiers, Navy SEAL Mike Thornton lifted critically injured fellow SEAL Tom Norris onto his shoulders and carried him in the darkness down the beach into the South China Sea surf. Inflating Norris’ life jacket, Thornton kept him afloat and breaststroked for about two hours to a support boat after that October 1972 beach-landing firefight near the Cua Viet River. Norris — who had been shot in the head — later underwent surgery and three years of rehabilitation, but he survived.
Now, this spectacular Vietnam War battlefield rescue will be memorialized in bronze. Saturday, officials will dedicate a 10-foot statue depicting Thornton carrying Norris on his shoulders during the facility’s 28th annual Muster reunion at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Fla. “It was the only time this century when one Medal of Honor winner was rescued by a person who would eventually get a Medal of Honor for rescuing him,” said Rick Kaiser, executive director of the museum. . . .
The statue was commissioned by former presidential candidate Ross Perot, who is friends with Thornton. The sculptor is Paul Moore of Norman, Okla., who also crafted a Perot-commissioned bronze statue of Gen. Hugh Shelton at the Airborne and Special Operation Museum in Fayetteville, N.C.
This year’s Muster also commemorates the 70th anniversary of the original Naval Combat Demolition Unit “frogmen.” In 1943, the military took over portions of Hutchinson Island and established a training base at Fort Pierce. Here, frogmen trained to penetrate enemy beach obstacles and defenses. Predecessors of today’s SEALs, these elite fighters trained for D-Day and other World War II amphibious assaults.
The museum was dedicated on Veterans Day in 1985 at the site of the defunct Fort Pierce Treasure Museum, and active and retired SEALs and their families from across the USA have gathered for annual Muster reunions ever since.
The word, “awesome,” is used too much and has been significantly devalued since the ’80s (thanks, Moon Unit Zappa and the Valley Girl culture). But not here. An awesome statue depicts two awesome men in an awesome rescue. Those guys are cool.
Happy Veterans Day, Mike Thornton and Tommy Norris!