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Cotton Honors the Memory of Capt. Thomas J. Hudner and Col. Wesley L. Fox

December 13, 2017

Contact: Caroline Rabbitt Tabler (202) 224-2353

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today spoke on the Senate floor about the lives of Medal of Honor recipients Capt. Thomas J. Hudner and Col. Wesley L. Fox. You can watch the video in full here. In addition, a full transcript of his remarks is below.


A month ago, we lost another Medal of Honor recipient, Capt. Thomas J. Hudner, who died at the ripe old age of 93. And not long after, we lost a second one, Col. Wesley L. Fox, who died at the distinguished age of 86. Two different men who led two different lives-each equally deserving of praise and honor. But I can't help but wonder if there's a reason their deaths came so suddenly and close together. It's almost as if our Lord took them in one fell swoop, so the greater loss would inspire greater gratitude for their sacrifice.

What Captain Hudner of the U.S. Navy did to earn his medal is remarkable for the simple fact that he could've been court-martialed for doing it. It was December 1950, in Korea. Just days before, the Chinese People's Liberation Army had crossed the Yalu River and thrown back U.S. forces on the cusp of victory. Then-lieutenant Hudner was a naval aviator, flying one of six Navy Corsairs near the Chosin Reservoir, five miles behind enemy lines, when he saw his squadron mate, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, get hit by enemy fire and crash-land on a snowy mountainside.

What Lieutenant Hudner probably should've done is stick to the plan; what he did instead was an act of pure bravery. He intentionally crash-landed his plane not far from Ensign Brown's and tried to rescue him from the burning wreckage-all in subzero temperatures. But Ensign Brown was trapped, his knee was crushed between the fuselage and the control panel. When help arrived, their hatchet couldn't hack through the plane's metal, and no one could get close enough to amputate his leg. They had to leave him behind. Ensign Brown's last words were "Tell Daisy I love her."

It might be appropriate to note here that Ensign Brown was black and Lieutenant Hudner was white. But I mention it as almost an afterthought because to the two of them that's just what it was-a postscript, an addendum, a mere detail. They were comrades in arms, wearing the red, white and blue, not seeing the color of each other's skins. The only color that mattered to them and that they shared in common besides the color of our flag was the Navy blue of their uniform. Just two years after Harry Truman had integrated the armed forces, Lieutenant Hudner and Ensign Brown's friendship was a symbol of America's promise. And he went on to have a successful career, but for giving us a moral example from that day we should all be thankful.

Col. Fox, meanwhile, was a legend in the Marine Corps. He served for 43 years, leaving only when forced to by the mandatory retirement at the age of 62. In that time, he held every enlisted rank except sergeant major and every officer rank except for general. He once admitted that "my first four years as a Marine I didn't own one stitch of civilian clothes-everything I did was in a Marine uniform. I'd go home on leave, working in the hay fields or whatever, I wore my Marine utilities. Go in town to see the movies, I wore Marine dress." That's just how proud Wesley Fox was to be a Marine.

And it was that deeply felt love for his fellow Marines that drove him in his service. Like Lieutenant Hudner, he fought in Korea. In fact, he was wounded, and after he recovered, he was so eager to get back to the fight that he wrote to the commandant asking to be deployed once again.

But the battle that earned him his place in history was in the jungles of Vietnam. It was February 1969, deep in the A Shau Valley in Vietnam.

Then-First Lieutenant Fox was fighting in the last major Marine offensive of the war: Operation Dewey Canyon. His unit was Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines-it earned the nickname "The Walking Dead" for suffering so many casualties during the war. They came under heavy fire from a larger force, yet the fearless Lieutenant Fox led a charge against the enemy. He was wounded, but he refused medical attention, instead concentrating on leading the attack, coordinating air support, and supervising the evacuation of the dead and injured.

It was a stunning show of valor, and for it, he too would earn the Medal of Honor. His citation read, in part, "His indomitable courage, inspiring initiative and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of grave personal danger inspired his Marines to such aggressive action that they overcame all enemy resistance and destroyed a large bunker complex. Capt. Fox's heroic actions reflect great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps, and uphold the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service."

As I said two different men, two different stories-but the same courage and service to the same great country. They showed the same selflessness-one risking his life for his friend, the other risking his life for his Marines. And so I think it's fitting that we celebrate their lives together-because they both showed us the utter selflessness of courage. They didn't fight and display such bravery because they hated our enemies but because they loved our country and they loved their comrades in arms. A good lesson, I'd say, for this time of year.

And so I want to honor the memory of Capt. Thomas J. Hudner and Col. Wesley L. Fox. They were true American patriots, and may they rest in peace.