Profiles in Courage

Article excerpt

Byline: Tina Brown

Newsweek salutes America's bravest.

"Don't call me a hero." That short sentence--firm, self-effacing, nonnegotiable--ties together all the heroic men and women cele brated in this issue of Newsweek. If there is one factor that unites the American heroes we spotlight here--as well as at our companion summit at the Institute of Peace in Washington on Nov. 14 and 15--it is their adamant refusal to be portrayed as special.

Heroism knows no particular context. A civilian on the street comes to a fellow citizen's defense in the event of a crime; a schoolgirl rushes to the aid of another in the face of schoolyard bullies; cops and firefighters act in the course of their daily duty. Courage can and should be quotidian. But it is often seen in its most impressive form in times of civic peril and catastrophe. Witness the countless acts of bravery in the face of Hurricane Sandy, which laid low our nation's greatest metropolis and devastated immense swaths of America's East Coast.

Yet the heroism most avidly cele brated is that of the soldier. In this issue, we tell the tales of warriors who fought and died for America and of those insanely brave--but oft-unsung--medevacs, like the team known as DUSTOFF 73 (featured in this week's cover story), unarmed men and women in uniform who venture into raging battlefields to rescue the wounded. As Tony Dokoupil and John Ryan write, the DUSTOFF crew wear patches on their uniforms inscribed with the last words of Maj. Charles Kelly, the first medevac commander, who died in Vietnam while defying orders to abandon a dangerous rescue site: "I'll leave when I have your wounded." Dokoupil and Ryan tell the story of events on June 25, 2011, one of the most decorated missions in aviation history, in which the team ventured into a battlefield called the Valley of Death in Afghanistan. The account of the 48-hour rescue is spine tingling, with the crew of the last remaining medevac helicopter clinging to a rope amid flying bullets as they picked up the dead and dying from a treacherous Taliban enclave.

Awe is the only appropriate word to describe our response to the heroes here. …