posted on March 21, 2007 06:03
Ezell Ware is nobody's victim.
This is a theme that comes through loud and clear in this memoir, despite the fact that Brigadier General Ware came to the world in the most desperate circumstances, and to maturity in the deeply racist environment of Jim Crow Mississippi.
General Ware tells two stories, interleaving the tale of his youth and career as one of the few black helicopter pilots in Viet Nam with a harrowing odyssey of survival after being shot down on a mission that didn't officially exist. In one story, a poor black kid defies all odds and conventional wisdom as he makes his way from the cotton fields to the Marines and, ultimately, to elite status as a helicopter gunship pilot running covert missions over Viet Nam. In the other, Ware drags his badly injured command pilot—a former Klansman—through three weeks of atrocious pain, harrowing escapes, and numbing disappointment as one rescue mission after another fails to pluck the men out of the jungle.
Both stories stand in stark contrast to a modern America in which "leaders of the black community" like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton preach victimhood and dependency to their fully enfranchised followers, while successful black men like Bill Cosby and Clarence Thomas are vilified for calling their bretheren to account for their own lives. I would like to wish that General Ware's life might set the standard for America's black youth, instead of avowed terrorists like Malcom X or opportunistic charlatans like Jackson and Sharpton, but frankly inspiration at this level is just too rare to bear hoarding.
General Ware's example should belong to us all.