The Counterfeit Courage of ‘Caitlyn’ Jenner by Alec Rooney

At one point in Laura Hillenbrand’s World War II book Unbroken, the top turret gunner of a B-24 bomber over the Pacific stays doggedly at his post and keeps on firing, trying to ward off an attacking Japanese fighter plane. Eventually he succeeds.

Staying focused on saving the lives of one’s comrades under such terrifying conditions is admirable enough.  Stanley Pillsbury did it after one of his feet had been practically blown off by a cannon shell from the enemy aircraft. When they got his boot off after the engagement, his foot was shredded. His big toe stayed inside the boot.

Yet he kept fighting, to save his comrades as well as himself. Imagine doing that while you are bleeding and in indescribable pain – or perhaps mercifully numb with terror – thousands of feet over a shark-filled Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from anything

WW II B-24 Liberator

familiar, in a metal machine that could fly into thousands of pieces at any moment. The book goes on to describe the men’s capture and two years of misery as prisoners of the Japanese empire.

It is a well-told story, only one of thousands of such tales arising from the Second World War, other wars, times of brutal hardship and deprivation, feats of sacrifice, endurance and brilliance — times when human courage enabled others to survive death and seemingly do the impossible.

Courage. Such a vital word. Yet like other words – gay, hero, tolerance, marriage, hate, even he and she – its meaning is falling victim to the tyranny of current media culture.

Early in July the former track and field star Bruce Jenner, who had a lot of expensive plastic surgery and hormone therapy and who now wants to be called Caitlyn and be treated as a female, accepted something called the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. 

The award is given by a sports television network to some notable figure, usually an athlete, for behavior that “transcends sports.” It is named for a great tennis player who unfortunately contracted HIV from a blood transfusion, and died from it.


One wonders if the award would have been named for him if he had died of cancer, rather than of a disease so closely linked to homosexuals, but that’s beside (if related to) the point. Let’s look at Jenner’s act of courage.

Jenner’s act of courage was to get the surgery, act like a woman, and get people to call him she and her.

Nor did he perform this heroic act in the comfortable safety of anonymity – you know, the world you and I live in every day. He did this while carrying all the added burdens and responsibilities of being a celebrity, a state of painful oppression that lesser people (like us) can never truly understand.

Yes, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

How did we go from courage meaning mental resilience in the face of death and terror, for the good of one’s fellow human beings, to it meaning getting everyone to play along with my personal fantasies?

There’s a difference there, between those two things.

And who got the Arthur Ashe Courage Award the previous year? Why, it was Michael Sam, the first gay guy to be drafted by the National Football League. Sam has since left the sport to focus on his mental health, although he got some consolation prizes: He was congratulated by President Barack Obama and got to be on Dancing with the Stars (not sure which one of those needed to go first).

Fortunately, the real world continues to provide real examples of real courage, not springing from fantasies, celebrity, or the media’s wishful thinking.

Heroism in France

In August three regular American guys, two of them military, were riding on a train in France when a Moroccan malcontent pulled out a rifle to start shooting people. Perhaps the malcontent was merely living out his own personal fantasy – some in the media probably had to ponder this – but the Americans weren’t about to indulge him. They rushed and tackled him and beat him unconscious, in spite of the fact that he had a loaded gun that could fire about ten bullets per second at 2,300 feet per second, and most likely saved the lives of many passengers.

A Brit and a Frenchman also helped in the takedown. Allies once again!


The French train crew locked themselves into safe compartments when the trouble started, according to witnesses.

Not courage.

Don’t let the meaning of this vital word change. Don’t let it be expanded to include the frivolous, the freakish and the fake. The time will always come again when we need it, and the rare quality it describes, by the trainload.


Alec Rooney serves as communications director for the Christian Action Network. He is a longtime journalist, with experience as a writer and editor at five daily newspapers over 25 years. An award-winning print copy editor and copy desk chief, he also works as a freelance academic book editor. He is a 1986 graduate of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., and holds an M.A. in English from the University of Kentucky.

John Wayne Walding: An American Hero [Video]

The actor John Wayne was one of my silver screen heroes as I was growing up. I admired his true grit. Another young man named John Wayne Walding (or JW2) is a real American hero and his story is one that I hope film makers like Clint Eastwood take notice of and promote in film what JW2 has done and is doing.

Watch this short video about JW2:


John Wayne Walding. Photo courtesy of Recoil Magazine.

Recoil Magazine recently Zeroed in on John Wayne Walding in a column titled “Still Standing“. Here are some notable excerpts from that article on JW2:

Highly Decorated All-American John Wayne Walding was the First Amputee to Complete Special Forces Sniper School. Now He Has His Sights Set on a New Mission: Empowering Veterans Through 5 Toes Custom.

[ … ]

As all-American as it gets, John Wayne Walding was born on Independence Day in Groesbeck, Texas. Ever the hard worker, John worked his way up the Army totem pole to 3rd Special Forces Group, where he served on Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 3336 as a communications sergeant and at the sniper detachment as a sniper instructor. Life for John changed forever on April 6, 2008, during the Battle of Shok Valley in Afghanistan.

On a pursuit mission to kill or capture a high-ranking commander of the terrorist organization known as Hizb-I Islami Gulbuddin, Walding’s 10-man S.F. unit and 60 Afghan commandos went up against at least 250 insurgents — at some 10,000 feet in elevation. Due to the terrain and weather, John’s ODA found themselves surrounded and stranded on a mountainside for six-and-a-half hours, being pelted with a constant shower of enemy fire and rocket-propelled grenades. So desperate was the situation that they radioed for “danger close” air strikes some 70 times during the fight, which rarely happens even once during most ground combat efforts.

During one relocation maneuver, fate gave John the hardest obstacle of his life. He was struck just below the knee by enemy fire. “I rolled over to see what happened, and my leg was folded over at a 90-degree angle, only holding on by an inch of flesh,” Walding says. “It hurt. Bad. It was the most debilitating feeling I’ve ever felt, and I felt no shock. I felt every single ounce of pain coming from the wound.”

All told, eight of the 10 S.F. soldiers were shot, and their lead interpreter (an Afghan named Edris “CK” Khan) was killed. The ODA had to make their way down the mountainside to try to medevac the wounded out via helicopter. This was a seemingly insurmountable task for the newly crippled John, whose leg was literally hanging by the skin. “I had to fold my leg into my crotch, hold it between my legs, and literally carry my leg off the mountain,” Walding says. “Then I had to scoot on my butt to the side of the cliff, roll off, fall, and scoot to the next ledge to fall off, and basically fall my way down the mountainside. Now I’m in pretty good shape and was in even better shape for the ODA, but I promise you, it took every ounce of strength to keep lifting myself to fall and keep moving forward. Easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Read more.

JW2 is a humble man and is doing what he can with his God given skills. He has overcome diversity, been tested under fire and continues to stand with his fellow wounded warriors.

I cannot think of anyone more deserving of our admiration, respect and emulation. I think John Wayne, if he were alive today, would say the same.


5 Toes Custom is an idea of helping combat wounded vets and giving back to charity by building handcrafted precision rifles. When the founder, John Wayne Walding, lost his leg in Afghanistan, he had trouble trying to find his new “North Star”. He found his star through his close, yet unlikely friend, David Feherty. David and John met in 2008 they have played 0 rounds of golf but shot more than 10,000 rounds of ammo together. It was their love for long-range marksmanship that drove the idea to manufacture the most accurate rifle. John then found a master gunsmith, by the name of Dick Cook, to show him the art of handcrafting rifles. After months of empty Red Bull cans and broken bits Dick was able to teach a not so old dog a new trick.

John built one, two, then ten rifles and realized his new passion in life. But he couldn’t just build rifles; he needed something that meant more to him. 5 Toes Custom became a place where combat wounded vets could also come find their North Star. Knowing that there is many other transitioning vets; the decision to give them the opportunity for the same direction was an easy one.

The next step to ensuring something bigger is by giving back to charity. Even though 5 TC is a FOR PROFIT company, they will always give back by donating a portion of profits to deserving charities.

This is what makes 5TC unique. By providing the finest handcrafted custom rifle, built by great Americans, and giving back to charities, 5TC will always succeed in the firearms industry.

Real Hero Fanny Crosby: Blind but Not Disabled by Lawrence W. Reed

The most revered woman in late 19th-century America is someone you’ve probably never heard of: Fanny Crosby.

Even if she is barely remembered today, the songs she wrote are still sung every week from coast to coast and around the world.

She was born Frances Jane Crosby in Putnam County, New York, in 1820. She died in February 1915, just a month short of her 95th birthday. And what a long life of achievement it was!

She earned great fame and appreciation for her charitable work in inner cities, especially when she nursed the sick during New York’s terrible cholera epidemic in the late 1840s. Thousands fled the city, but Fanny stayed behind, contracting the disease herself but later recovering.

She probably holds the record for having met more US presidents than any other American, living or dead — an astounding 21, or almost half of the 43 men who’ve held the office. She met every single one (in some cases after they served in the White House) from John Quincy Adams to Woodrow Wilson. She was also the very first woman to address the US Congress.

Her memory was legendary. By age 15, she had memorized the first five books of the Old Testament, the first four of the New (the gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John), the books of Proverbs and Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms.

By age 20, Crosby called herself “an ardent Democrat” at a time when Democrats supported smaller government while their main opponents, the Whigs, endorsed a national bank, federal infrastructure spending, higher tariffs, and other interventions. At least one of the more than 1,000 poems she wrote took aim at the Whig presidential candidate in 1840, William Henry Harrison. An abolitionist through and through, the slavery issue pushed her into the Whig camp a few years later. But when Democrat Franklin Pierce won the White House in 1852, she wrote, “The election’s past and I’m pierced at last. The locos have gained the day.” That was an allusion to the Locofocos, the most libertarian wing of the Democratic Party.

Fanny Crosby was clearly a woman that people wanted to meet. The reason? She was the best-known hymn writer of her day. She wrote about 9,000 hymns in her lifetime, a record no one else has ever approached. America’s Protestant churches by the late 19th century were filled with music from the creative mind of Fanny Crosby. Some of her hymns are well-known and still widely sung, from “To God Be the Glory” to “Blessed Assurance.”

What made Fanny’s life so remarkable was the handicap she endured and overcame: total blindness. At the age of just six months, treatment for an inflammation of her eyes blinded her for life. She could never see, but in a very poignant way, she never looked back, either. Throughout her life, she inspired others with her hard work and personal initiative. She even learned to play the piano, organ, harp, and guitar, and became a respected soprano singer. She was popular as much for her perseverance in the face of a horrific obstacle as for all the many good deeds she performed.

How’s this for a sunny perspective in the face of adversity? “It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God,” she once observed,

that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things around me.

Crosby was reported as saying had it not been for her affliction, she “might not have so good an education or have so great an influence, and certainly not so fine a memory.”

Fanny Crosby set a personal goal of bringing a million people to Christianity through her hymns. Whenever she wrote one, she prayed it would bring women and men to the faith, and she kept careful records of those reported to have been converted through her works. She also wrote four books of poetry.

America is a country with a history of heroes, but it seems at times that we’ve forgotten more than we’re producing. Maybe there’s a connection there. If we forget our heroes, how can their examples serve as inspirations?

In honor of her 85th birthday in 1905, “Fanny Crosby Day” was celebrated in churches all over the world. In May 1911, at age 91, she spoke to 5,000 people in Carnegie Hall after the crowd sang her songs for 30 minutes.

Through her powerful example and exemplary character, she became one of the most admired women in American history. If she had only kept quiet about her faith, complained about her plight as a blind person, or declared a right to a federal handout, maybe the writers of our history texts today wouldn’t ignore her.

For further information, see:

Christian History
Edith L. Blumenhofer’s biography
Fanny Crosby’s autobiography
Lawrence W. Reed on the Locofocos

Lawrence W. Reed

Lawrence W. (“Larry”) Reed became president of FEE in 2008 after serving as chairman of its board of trustees in the 1990s and both writing and speaking for FEE since the late 1970s.

EDITORS NOTE: Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.