Seek Ye The Noble Man: Finding Character & Courage in a Time of Disposable Morality by Resa WARCHICK Kirkland

SEEK YE THE NOBLE MAN–Finding Character & Courage in a Time of Disposable Morality by Resa WARCHICK Kirkland

Statue dedicated to honoring Richard Rowland Kirkland, the Angel of Marye’s Heights
When you have stories like that of Richard Rowland Kirkland hanging from your family tree, you understand the importance of justice and doing right for no other reason than it is right. Hard to ignore a life that spawned statues, paintings, books, organizations, and, as of last year, a movie. His acts of valor in our North vs. South war are worthy of every accolade.
He was not forgotten. In fact, he has reached legend status. One those savage fools in the South tearing down war heroes should know before they further cannibalize their freedom and future.
And oh that story which forever earned him the moniker “Angel of Marye’s Heights:”
Despite his youth, Kirkland enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1861, not long after war was declared, before his older brothers. He was first assigned to Company E, 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, but was later transferred to Company G of the same regiment, and was promoted to sergeant. He first saw action during the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas), and later in the Battle of Savage’s Station, Battle for Maryland Heights and Battle of Antietam, during which time many of his closest friends from Kershaw County were killed. Wikipedia
After a frontal charge on December 13, 1862 at Fredericksburg, Virginia, thousands of men from the armed forces of Union General Ambrose Everett Burnside’s Army of the Potomac lay dead and dying on the ice-covered slope of Marye’s Heights. The pleas for water from the wounded men echoed for all to perceive. However, no one from either side dared to render aid for fear of them becoming a target as Union and Confederate marksmen were willing and able to fell anyone who entered this killing ground. To the conscious ears of Richard Rowland Kirkland, a Confederate soldier of the Second South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, the cries of the battle casualties became unbearable. He sought and gained the hesitant permission of his superior, Joseph Brevard Kershaw, to leave his position with the optimism of rendering aid to the battle sufferers. After gathering canteens, Kirkland leaped over the wall and entered this “no mans land”. At the outset, the federal frontline took shots at him but quickly ceased fire when it became evident what his purposes were. Zigzagging between the wounded and dying, Kirkland gave water to the thirsty, care to the wounded and provided warmth for the cold. Accounts have the wounded federal infantrymen raising their arms to attract his notice. For ninety minutes, he continued this meandering of aid to the enemy and when he returned to his station, the two opposing armies unleashed a shout of approval to show their respect and admiration for his compassion. His humanitarian deeds earned him the title “The Angel of Marye’s Heights”. Kirkland survived the battle of Fredericksburg and would come through the violent fighting at the Peach Orchard and the Wheatfield during the Pennsylvania battle of Gettysburg yet would not survive the war. At the forefront of the advancing Confederates, he was charging up Snodgrass Hill during the battle of Chickamauga on September 20, 1863 when a rifle ball pierced his chest. Brushing away aid, he knew the wound was mortal, “No, I am done for. You can do me no good. Save yourselves and tell Pa good-bye and I died right. I did my duty. I died at my post.” fm Find a Grave

Remember, Remember….
One of the things that had always gotten to me the most were his final words: “Save yourselves, men, and tell Pa I died right.”
As a child I pondered often on how one “dies right.” I thought I understood, especially after reading Richard’s story. It reminded me of that old saying, “A hero dies but once, but a coward dies 1000 deaths.” I suppose that is the way one “dies right,” by his last thoughts being of saving the lives of others rather than saving himself.

The best known newspaper story of Richard Rowland Kirkland
I would come to know it even better thanks to another “Richard” whose North vs. South war came later but whose story is barely a footnote in history, in spite of its magnificence.
I would come to realize that this stranger, too, died right…twice…in the same day. So it was this ancestral foundation that had primed me for that warm summer night in 1991 as I perused my dad’s old scrapbook on a peaceful Sunday and was introduced to that other “Richard,” the one I’d never heard of.
I would come to realize that this stranger, too, died right…twice…in the same day. So it was this ancestral foundation that had primed me for that warm summer night in 1991 as I perused my dad’s old scrapbook on a peaceful Sunday and was introduced to that other “Richard,” the one I’d never heard of.
But my dad had known him, beginning in the fall of 1945, and that night I, too, met my dad’s best friend, PFC Ricardo Carrasco, as I carefully opened a yellowed Reader’s Digest article from the November 1959 issue, penned by Hollywood “Starmaker” Hal Wallis. The title across the yellowing article read The Movie Star You Never Saw. My heart swelled in the same way it does when I feel something sacred, and the heritage I’d been given awakened in my brain as the story that would consume me for the next 20 years stirred a soul already well-schooled in the character of ancestor Richard.

Ricardo Carrasco
Ricardo Carrasco and Robert Talmage Kirkland were best friends from the time they met at Davey Crockett Elementary School until graduation from Stephen F. Austin High School, El Paso, TX, in May, 1952. Both joined the military – Robert in the Navy and Ricardo in the Army – and intended to make it a career.
Lucky for them we were at war again.
Ricardo arrived in Korea in late March 1953, as part of the 7th Division, 32nd Infantry Regiment, Company A. He spent the next three months fighting on the evil twins – Old Baldy and Pork Chop Hill – and grew to despise Korea. Oh, he liked the people, and the Republic Of Korea (ROK) soldiers, but he was restless with the fear of failing his “fellahs,” as he would refer to them.
And of course, he longed for home. What happened next should have been a Godsend – a big old, silver-screen, Hollywood-in-its-heyday Godsend.
While Ricardo had been fighting, his future was actually unfolding back home in a way most people can only fantasize. Paramount Pictures producer Hal Wallis was approached by old friend and director Owen Crump, who wanted to make a movie on the front lines in Korea, using only front-line soldiers.
The story was to take place on the last day of the war. The cease fire was to go into effect that night. The plot revolved around that frightening time in war, that final stretch with the goal in sight: the interim between when the decision is made and the actual cease fire, when fighting continues and men die, just inches from the finish line.
It is one of many heartbreaking aspects of war.

Early scene from the movie CEASE FIRE!, Ricardo Carrasco far right
Crump wanted the plot to revolve around a group of 14 men who are ordered to set up an observation post on Red Top Hill … a “movie” hill that was loosely based on the infamous Pork Chop Hill. One of the men would die in the effort. The movie was eventually named Cease Fire!
The agony of dying in the last hours of the war summed up in 80 minutes. Wallis loved it.

Using a tank to move the heavy 3D camera around the front lines of the Korean War, June 1953
So it was that in mid-June 1953, Crump walked among the frontline troops, choosing each soldier who would be a part of the fictional “Easy Patrol.” Every “actor,” every uniform, every bullet, every explosion was the real Government Issue thing. No fake Hollywood stunts for this film.
The 14 GI’s-turned-actors were whisked off to the War Correspondent’s building in Seoul, where they slept in real beds, ate dinner at tables with linen cloths and waiters, and had all the cigars and whiskey they wanted. Raised on John Wayne and World War II, these men knew the double excitement of being a movie star and getting out of the hell of war. Everyone there knew that the cease fire was only a few days away – the summer would out-live the fighting.
And when they got home … oh my, when they got home! All but one reveled in the deliciousness of it: Ricardo could scarcely bear it.
The 19-year-old from Texas was quiet – moodier than his comrades, and every day he would ask the same question: “When can I go back to my fellahs?” Crump had already decided that Ricardo would be the American to “die” on that last day of the movie war, and since finding out his movie fate, Ricardo couldn’t seem to wait to get it done. The other men were enjoying every minute of the experience, grateful to be away from the shooting, mud and death. Crump couldn’t figure Ricardo out.

PFC Ricardo Carrasco, far right, in scene from CEASE FIRE!
Yet when the cameras were on, Ricardo had a knack. He played his part almost perfectly – remarkable considering he’d never acted a day in his life. Owen Crump was pleased beyond belief as they forged this new, cinematic ground, and he was anxious to see if Paramount would be as impressed as he was.
Hal Wallis watched the black and white rushes with growing enthusiasm. He was Hollywood’s pre-eminent “Starmaker” – in fact, he was Hollywood, and while he couldn’t define it exactly, he knew a star when he saw one. As he watched, one warrior stood out: PFC Ricardo Carrasco of El Paso, Texas.
This kid had “it.”
He watched each piece of raw footage over and over again. Every frame proved his instincts right. Wallis wired the news to Owen Crump: get Carrasco under contract with Paramount. The Starmaker had big plans for him.

Ricardo, back, in movie scene with fellow soldier and temporary thespian Johnny Mayes
Back in Seoul after a particularly long day, Crump pulled Carrasco aside for a private moment so he could relay the news to the private. He held his breath and waited for the shriek of joy.
“No thank you, sir.”
Crump stood stock still for a moment. Something was wrong here.
“No, wait, son, you don’t understand. Hal Wallis is offering you a contract with Paramount Pictures. He wants to make you a star. He thinks you have what it takes.” Crump felt assured that this time Carrasco would understand.
But Ricardo remained firm. “Yes sir, I understand that, but I’m not interested.”
Crump could only stare. What Carrasco said next left the man reeling.
“Sir, do you think we could get me killed off in the next day or two?” he asked.
Crump could only whisper, “What?”
“Sir, buzz is the Chinese are getting ready to attack Pork Chop again. The guy they got to take my place is green – he’ll get my fellahs killed. I have to go back … I couldn’t live with myself.”
The director felt sick. This boy was throwing his future away with both hands. He couldn’t deny the fire in those deep, chocolate eyes, but still …
“You’re a damned fool, kid. Go to bed. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”
Crump sat at a table, scratching out a quick note to the producer. When Wallis read it a couple of days later, the Starmaker boiled. He had never been turned down before and, by God, he wasn’t going to be now by some punk kid on a glory kick! After he cooled down, he told his assistant to wire back that since the cease fire would be signed into effect in a few days, Crump was to again make the contract offer. Maybe then, with the war behind him and his sense of duty fulfilled, Carrasco would be more receptive.
But back in Korea, Crump could take no more of Carrasco’s constant pestering. He re-wrote the sketchy script to kill Ricardo off two weeks ahead of schedule, and shot the close-ups of Ricardo’s final scene, his death scene, on the morning of July 6, 1953.
It was the best acting the kid had done yet, but he took no time to celebrate. After lunch, Ricardo gathered up his gear and hopped into a waiting jeep, chatting about his mother and El Paso and the approaching football season with the driver, who cussed him out the whole way for going back early. Ricardo just smiled, completely unfazed. As they pulled up to the forward area around Pork Chop, he hopped out with his duffle bag and waved goodbye.
That was the night the Chinese attacked Pork Chop Hill, and at 11:25 p.m., the man who could have been a prince of Hollywood ended his tour of duty in an explosion of brain and skull and mortar. There was no slow motion, no swell of music as his head burst.
His reel death and his real death had played out about 12 hours apart.

Ricardo’s original death scene, cut from the final film after his real death
The cease fire was signed on July 27, 1953. Cease Fire! the movie premiered in November 1953. Ricardo had been the only one to return to the front before the cease fire, the only one to see battle again, and the only one to die – twice in one day, no less. The movie, like the war, was not a box office hit; it isn’t even listed in the Wikipedia write-up on Hal Wallis as one of his movies. The movie, like the war, faded into the past and never received much notice or attention. The men of the movie, like the men of that war, moved on with what was left of their lives – all except one, who left his life on a hillside in Korea.

CEASE FIRE! premiere
God chooses sides, and commands us to do no less. The soldier is the epitome of this choice – a choice born of magnanimous, miraculous, meticulous love, with no expectation of return. For both men, war brought out their inner hero. For Richard, it was risking his life for the enemy, only to have the enemy cheer his “God moment” and refuse to fire upon him. For Ricardo, the war became what it becomes for all good soldiers. It wasn’t about communism, America or freedom. It was about those men he so loved – not because he had to, but because he chose to, even when it meant giving up a remarkable opportunity followed immediately by giving up his very young life.
It is not a choice made lightly, but once made, it is set in stone forever. In my 25 years of interviewing hundreds of veterans, I have found this commonality: my beloved warrior brothers feel that the real heroes died over there. But I submit to you that their moment of agony was short. Now they are free and know all the answers, the why’s and wherefore’s. I do not intend to diminish or dishonor the glory of what they gave—and gave up—for their friends at all. They’ve earned their crown.

FT BLISS grave of Ricardo Carrasco
But it is those who must live the next several decades with the torment of memories – you are my heroes, because you bear the awful burden every day so I won’t have to. There is no love like it – no gift more precious – and we have too often treated you poorly for your priceless gift. I am so sorry … you deserved better. You deserved a return at the very least equal to what you gave us, what you gave up for us, for most people are willing to give for a friend. The true mark of charity isn’t in what you’re willing to give to a friend…it is in what you’re willing to give up for a friend, a stranger, or even, as in Richard’s case, a suffering enemy. My God but the American warrior is glorious! You’ll find no “Can’t someone else do it?” whining here, no shoving their wives into danger to save their own skins, a sick “Take my wife…please!” joke that only cowards tell.
I have yet to measure up to what they gave, yet to suffer, yet to deserve. The thought that a mere boy could be offered the greatest human acknowledgement known to mortal flesh in the form of fame, fortune and power, and turn it down for war, terror, blood and death–all for just the chance to save another–is an exact similitude of the sacrifice that saved us all when our perfect Brother gave up everything just to give us a chance to choose. The warrior is the only mortal I’ve ever known who even comes close to comparing to the gift that saved humanity. It isn’t that they are perfect – it is that in spite of their own personal weaknesses, they achieve a type of selfless sacrifice that can only compare to the gift the God Himself gave the world.
God bless the warrior, and forgive our treatment of them. Their vigilance is our only hope, for in the course of awful, painful, heartbreaking, glorious human events, they make the stands that save the souls.
They know what life is all about. Richard summed it up when his last words were for his dad. Ricardo summed it up with these final words for his mother, written in his last letter home: “Don’t worry when you see me die in the movie, Mom. It’s not real.”
They know how to live worthy and “die right;” sometimes, more than once.
Keep the faith, bros, in all things courage, and no substitute for VICTORY.
CAST OF “CEASE FIRE”
Lt. Thompson – Capt. Roy Thompson
Sgt. Goszkowski – Cpl. Henry Goszkowski
Elliott – Sgt. Richard Karl Elliott
“One Ton” – SPC Albert Bernard Cook
Mayes – Pvt. Johnnie Lee Mayes
Kim – Bong Chul Pak
(Radio Man) – SPC Howard E. Strait
“Bad News” – Pfc. Gilbert L. Gazaille
— (Wounded Boy) – Pfc. Harry Hofelich
Cpl. Charlie W. Owen
English – Cpl. Harold D. English
Pruchniewski – Cpl. Edmund G. Pruchniewski
Wright – Pvt. Otis Wright
Pfc. Rica