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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Patriotism at Outpost Con Thien

February 26, 2014|By Joe Puglia

In the history of warfare I find it interesting how seemingly insignificant places take on a momentous importance. Valley Forge, the Alamo, Gettysburg, and Bastogne became symbolic as bastions of American resolve. With or without strategic significance they were held regardless of the cost of life.

During the Vietnam War there was one such outpost just below the demilitarized zone, Con Thien. Con Thien, loosely translated, means “a place of angels.” The Marines who fought there understood no angels ever set foot on that hill. To the 9th Marines defending this position it was known as “Hell in a helmet.”

The heavy monsoon rains had turned the red earth into gruel. The mud was a yard deep and had the consistency of pudding. The outpost was the anchor of “Marine Alley”: Gio Linh, Dong Ha, Cam Lo, and Con Thien. These four Marine combat bases kept a watchful eye on the North Vietnamese Army. The enemy was determined to overrun Con Thien; the Marines were determined to stop them.

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Con Thien played a significant part in the history of the Vietnam War. The firebase was in the news during the time it was under attack. Time and Life magazines wrote stories about the horrors they saw there. The base was under siege and received continuous bombardment from enemy heavy guns, and ground assaults from numerically superior forces. Regardless of Con Thien’s tactical significance, the outpost became symbolic of American resolve to stay the course of the Vietnam War.

The author of a Time Magazine article was impressed by the reverence shown by the Marines each morning as they raised the flag; consequently he titled his piece, “Patriotism is Alive and Well at Con Thien.”

So what’s my point?

I attend all the La Cañada High School boys’ and girls’ basketball games. I’m a true blue Spartan fan! Prior to the game the national anthem is played and I have to tell you there is a lackadaisical attitude during the anthem. I appreciate the fact that those present stand but many do not place their hand over their heart. To do so is a show of respect. The United States flag code states, “All present should stand at attention and place their right hand over their heart.”

Yeah! I realize it’s a minor thing, but patriotism is a component of citizenship and from my humble perspective patriotism is foundational.

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