LACERDA: Navy rescue: a spark of heroism

John LaCerda

On Sunday, U.S. Navy snipers killed three pirates holding a Vermont man hostage on a cargo ship intercepted off the Somali coast. In an operation authorized by President Obama, the pirates were pointing AK-47 assault rifles at Captain Richard Phillips when the commander of the nearby USS Bainbridge gave the order for sharpshooters on the destroyer to open fire at the lifeboat bobbing on the Indian Ocean.

The rescue mission, done with precision and prestige, serves as an optimistic outlook on the continual conflict with pirates in the Indian Ocean. It also offers us a glimmer of hope and heroics in a time where our country so desperately needs it.

The details of the mission are startling. Like the procedures of a military operation from a Tom Clancy novel or a Jason Bourne movie, the plan to save Captain Phillips was an extremely well -thought out and effective move by the U.S. Navy. Hidden on the fantail of the Bainbridge after parachuting into the ocean sometime earlier, the snipers successfully executed a basic operative rescue, leaving a surviving pirate to be further questioned by authorities in order to seek out more terrorists in these dangerous waters.

President Obama, who spoke with the captain and his family, said Phillips was “a model for all Americans.” I cannot help but admire Obama’s forthright aggression in “giving the go” for the operation; his actions should not go unnoticed. Although Phillips credits his liberation to the Navy, his crew has called him a hero, and rightfully so. He endured nearly five hours in a cramped lifeboat, in a sweltering Somali heat, before the Navy freed him about 7:20 p.m. local time – 12:20 p.m. in Pennsylvania, where the family and friends of the Winchester native anxiously awaited on a cold, sunny Easter Sunday.

When I first heard the details about the captivity of Mr. Phillips and the rescue mission thereafter, I immediately reflected upon the question of “What is a hero?” Unfortunately, in the eyes of many Americans, our youth being the majority, heroes are those that merely entertain or simply amuse. I am talking about actors, musicians and athletes, among others, who work for their own benefit rather than yours. While we can still respect the talent of such individuals, and even attempt to perform at their same level, it is na’ve to consider people in entertainment as heroes over the efforts of our troops who serve to protect rather than to provoke.

Vice Admiral William E. Gortney, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, stated on Monday, “The White House gave very clear and guided authority.” Clearly, the success of the operation rested on diligent and insightful expertise by high command, namely that of our savior, President Obama.

When one considers past rescue missions in American history, it becomes easy to target the failed attempts, such as the Black Hawk Down debacle in Mogadishu in 1993 under the Clinton administration or the Iranian hostage crisis of 1981 during the Reagan era. The severity of such events cannot be truly depicted in Hollywood; the majority of the time, the bad guy wins and even great negotiator, like Denzel Washington from “The Siege,” does not always murder the terrorist and free the captives in such eccentric fashion.

My real issue is that when you sit down at night to watch the new plot twist in “Lost” or to enjoy the brilliant acting in “Grey’s Anatomy,” do not be afraid to switch the channel to a news station, however dreadful that might seem. There is a lot more going on in this world than musical contests and competitive game shows. There are real heroes out there.


John LaCerda is a junior English major from Medfield, Mass. He can be reached at [email protected].