I believe that the late Hugh Thompson, a not so well known 24 year old
Army helicopter pilot who altered the outcome for some villagers in My Lai,
Vietnam on March 16, 1968, was one of the finest role models ever.
He took great personal risk to stop the My Lai massacre. It takes a lot of
guts to confront many other soldiers and a commanding officer
from your own army. Hugh Thompson said the army had no good leaders on the ground
that day. But they had a fine leader in Mr. Thompson, who, despite his lack of
a formal leadership role, managed to stop a massacre before every intended
victim was killed.
He could not have understood on March 16, 1968 that he would be , in effect,
blacklisted for doing the right thing under the most risky and difficult
circumstances. But he had to know his life was in danger when he got out of his
helicopter to confront the commander on the ground verbally.
Hugh Thompson could have chosen not to be involved at all.
Instead he chose to place himself in great danger to stop an atrocity in progress.
And because of that some My Lai villagers survived the massacre.
We have some rare insights from Mr Thompson about what leads to this kind of
atrocity. It had to do with bad leadership, revenge, peer pressure and prejudice
against people from different races or different cultures or different religions.
Mr Thompson understood clearly that the My Lai villagers were no less human than
himself. He demonstrated the best qualities America has to offer: he was willing to
literally stand alone to try to help the innocent civilians of My Lai who had not
yet been shot dead. His courage, his conscience, and his positive leadership make him
a hero for the ages.
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