The comparison of Col. John Herschel Glenn, Jr. and Cpl. Joseph Vittori reminds of some weird, alternate reality where Sir Lancelot meets Fonzie from “Happy Days.” Yeah, that’s right, I’m going to get nerdy with this one.
On one end, you have this fine, upstanding officer type. He has an education, he’s socially recognizable and he’s accomplished many heroic feats. Glenn is like Lancelot, he’s the knight-in-shining-armor-type.
On the other end, you have a small-town kid from Massachusetts, a popular guy in his town, but a gritty sparkplug who’s less interested in the finer things in life and more interested in getting his hands dirty and making things happen — a fighter. Vittori is like The Fonz, just a hard-nosed bad-ass who is nice to people, but a guy you don’t want to mess with. They even kind of look like each other.
Glenn earned more awards than Vittori, knights usually get more recognition than small-town heroes. Glenn was decorated with multiple Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals. He fought in two wars and shot down numerous enemy aircraft, including three MiGs in the Korean War.
But Vittori earned the Medal of Honor, and his citation is one of the more incredible ones you’ll ever read. He basically annihilated an entire North Korean company single handedly and saved the lives of hundreds of Marines. He manned multiple foxholes and machine guns, giving the enemy the impression that they were up against a much larger force than just one man. He lost his life to the enemy’s machine gun fire. The next morning, the Marines found approximately 200 enemy corpses in Vittori’s wake.
Sometimes one extraordinary action can trump a lifetime of achievement. I give Vittori the edge in service.
Glenn’s legacy is one almost every American knows. He’s one of the most famous people to have ever been a Marine. He was the first man to orbit the Earth, and served as an Ohio state senator for 25 years. He received numerous national non-military awards for his contributions in areas such as public affairs, public service, national defense and American history.
Unfortunately, we were unable to see the man Vittori would become because his life was cut short while protecting his fellow Marines. However, his legacy and fighting spirit stays with the Marine Corps and all its generations to come.
It’s hard to say Vittori would have ever changed the world the way Glenn did after his service. It’s actually hard to say any Marine will ever do as much for America and the world than Glenn has. And for that, Glenn takes legacy.
Although Vittori’s time in the Corps was short, he did motivate the hell out of some Marines during the time he had to work with and continues to motivate Marines today.
Vittori was actually on the front lines in Korea once before earning the Medal of Honor. He was wounded near Yang-gu and was evacuated to a field hospital. After a bit of recovery, his command assigned him to a comfortable position as a property sergeant. Vittori played along for about a week before he couldn’t take it anymore. He asked to be reunited with his infantry buddies in the heat of combat where he would later earn his Medal of Honor and give his life for his brothers.
Glenn has motivated generations of Marines and civilians alike. For Marines, he held the famous nickname of “Magnet Ass,” given to him after returning to base twice from combat missions, each time with more than 250 bullet holes in his aircraft.
Another interesting side note, Glenn was a part of a space mission when he was 77 years old. Its sole purpose was to see how space affected the elderly. The mission made him the oldest man ever to enter outer space.
The man can motivate people from day cares to nursing homes for crying out loud.
Although I’m really torn on the decision, I have to give motivation to Glenn. Vittori will forever motivate me, but Glenn’s achievements for the Marine Corps and our country justify his place in the elite eight.
Motivation and Winner: Glenn
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