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Posted on Jan 4, 2013 in Carlo D'Este, War College

The Heroes Among Us

By Carlo D'Este

For over thirty years I’ve been writing about heroes on the battlefield who have earned our admiration for their valor. Some have won medals; others were ordinary soldiers who have gone unrecognized by simply doing their job often under terrifying conditions and in places now obscured in the pages of history.

I had an entirely different article planned for this month but that will have to wait until another time. Like millions of other Americans I have been profoundly saddened and appalled by the horrific tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut on a sunny Friday morning in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

For those of us who write history, this is the type of story we hope and pray we will never have to write. Our sorrow knows no bounds, the event is still too raw, and our pens are bereft of suitable words to adequately chronicle, much less make sense of this awful event. Suffice it to note that Sandy Hook will forever be an indelible stain on American history, at a time when too many innocents are dying for no other reason than that they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.


On that terrible day twenty young lives were snuffed out from bullets fired from a semi-automatic assault weapon in the hands of a maniac. At the same time six remarkable women also gave their lives heroically protecting the lives of their young charges. The principal of the school, Dawn Hochsprung, died after confronting the gunman; young Victoria Soto, described as a superb teacher, died shielding her class, while saving most of their lives. Four other women at the school also died. All of them exhibited incredible bravery that is difficult to envision. All died just as heroically as military men and women die in combat protecting their comrades.

As Mike Lupica has written in the New York Daily News on December 23, 2012: “We talk so often, properly so, about the Greatest Generation, my father’s generation, the ones who went off to fight World War II because in that moment that kind of courage was needed in America. But now there is a new Greatest Generation, one that includes the adults who tried to save children the Friday morning before last, surely knowing it would cost them their lives, adults who were as brave and honorable as any serviceman or woman who has ever laid down their life for their country, because of what they did when evil came walking through the front door of an elementary school.”

All of us owe these educators a great debt for what they did to teach and nurture the children of Sandy Hook – and for their bravery in the face of unimaginable terror we will forever hold them in our hearts.

Speaking of courage, I know of no braver or compassionate person than Robert Parker, the father of six-year old Emilie, the beautiful child with the vivid blue eyes who was one of the twenty children gunned down at Sandy Hook. Although he never intended it that way, Mr. Parker has become the unofficial spokesman for the Newtown parents who lost children in the rampage. He is also a shining example of grace in the wake of tragedy.

As the days pass and we seek closure, we are finding there is very little, nor has it become any clearer why a troubled young man decided that morning to execute the person who had borne, nurtured and protected him, and then murdered twenty-six innocent women and young children.

As for the citizens of Newtown, and in particular the young boys and girls who experienced at firsthand horrors no human being should ever have to endure: how will life ever be the same for them? Yes, children are resilient but what they suffered is beyond the pale. The parents of these children and the citizens of Newtown will, I believe, come through this – but it won’t be easy. The oft-used phrase “one day at a time” was never truer. For many it has been one minute and one hour at a time as broken hearts attempt to mend.

Sandy Hook was not only Newtown’s tragedy but also America’s. On that day, as we have on other days in other schools such as Columbine and Virginia Tech, we’ve seen innocents murdered.

The sad fact is that eighty-five people a day (that’s three per hour) die every day in this country from the barrel of a gun. Over the course of a year that number balloons to over 31,000. The number that die from a firearm in less than three months exceeds the number of American military personnel killed in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

As it must, the debate over gun control has at last been renewed with a sense of urgency. Where it will go in the face of unrelenting resistance from the powerful gun lobby that seems to believe that every American has a God-given and Second Amendment right to own an assault rifle is anyone’s guess.

A great many unanswered questions loom in the days ahead. Can gun owner’s change, while still retaining their constitutionally protected rights? Can the test of reason prevail and result in a compromise that bans assault weapons? Is there enough will to even try? And, if so, will there just be more talk and no action as memories of Newtown begin to fade? Is there such a thing as common ground or more of the same old arguments about gun rights and the Second Amendment?

In the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in nearby Danbury, CT – the same store where the gunman attempted to purchase a rifle three days before the massacre – crassly promoted a sale of ammunition for as low as 5 cents per round. Apparently, insensitivity and stupidity live on even in the wake of tragedy.

While the Second Amendment is inviolate, I cannot fathom why anyone needs an assault weapon, and why these weapons and their multi-round magazines are too readily available with little or insufficient control over who purchases them.

Our nation needs to redefine its goals and our lawmakers need to decide their legacy for future generations. To have to lock down our schools, run drills, and have children from five years of age live with the fear of not being safe when in school is unacceptable. As they become adults, fear may secretly predominate their psyches and create anxieties they cannot express. Is that what we want to teach them?

We need to step up and step up now. I’ve always believed in doing the right thing. Well, the right thing is that we have to do better – we have to take better care to protect our most precious asset, our children. The time for politics and for excuses has expired. We need to do it before we have to bury any more young children.

We need to do more than just talk – and then fail to act. To do nothing is to ignore their peril. It is time to do the right thing and address these issues with a unified spirit and some old fashioned common sense, working together to create change. Only when we say “enough is enough” will we come together.

We cannot bring back the innocent victims of Newtown but we can at least begin the process of keeping these weapons from the hands of people who will misuse them by banning assault rifles. It’s certainly not a perfect solution but at least it’s a start.

Was Sandy Hook Elementary School enough?


  1. Bravo, Mr. D’Este! You have succinctly described what needs to be done in this country without delay. I hope we have the national will to do the sane thing about the plague in our country of assault weapons and high capacity clips. To lawful gun owners, no one is trying to take away your right to own a handgun, shotgun, or rifle to protect your family or business, or for hunting purposes. But you must look inside yourself and admit that no citizen needs a weapon that can wipe out large groups of people in the blink of an eye. And find the courage to stand up to zealots in the NRA who will accept no restictions on gun ownership under any circumstances.

  2. Recently my youngest daughter (a student at IUPUI) saw her first corpse laying on the sidewalk at the IUPUI Child Care Center in Indianapolis. The corpse was a woman who had been shot in a “Gun Free Zone”. Several “spree” shootings have taken place (including the Sandy Hook Elementary School) and the common denominator has been that they have all occurred in “Gun Free Zones”. At the shopping mall in Oregon, a concealed carry permit holder ignored the “Gun Free Zone” and immediately pursued the killer. The killer, upon viewing the permit holder’s gun, turned his own gun and shot himself. Nobody was armed at Sandy Hook Elementary and the SWAT Team arrived 25 minutes later. 27 people died at Sandy Hook Elementary and 3 people died at the Oregon shopping mall. Gun Free Zone policies have created the ground work for the Sandy Hook Elementary School disaster. Both of my daughter’s Indiana rural high schools had only one unlocked entrance and an armed policeman stood guard at the door. Armed Sherriff Deputies were at school events. Police cars periodically patrolled the parking lots. My daughters were not traumatized. Gun Free Zones need to end.
    I have had actual defensive gun use experience when 3 armed thugs almost broke into our house. Events happened in a couple of minutes and the Police responded after 25 minutes of missing our address. Lessons were learned such as 6 rounds for 3 thugs did not seem plentiful; and the encounter would be settled in seconds or minutes, while the Police would respond in a half hour.
    The “Sporting Purpose” theory of “Gun Control” had its origins with the National Socialists of 1930s Germany. The purpose of such legislation was not “Gun Control” but rather People Control. The Second Amendment has little to do with “Sporting Purposes” and was to provide a Constitutional Check and Balance to ensure a Republic kept by the American People and not dismissed by capricious politicians and generals.
    Many semi-automatic guns with detachable magazines do not have military applications of which the newly proposed “Gun Control Bill” would ban. The Ruger 10/22 and Remington 597 are examples of sporting guns being on the ban list. All semi-automatic target and hunting pistols would be banned as they all have detachable magazines.
    The best selling AR-15 family of rifles are on the ban list. The AR-15 was developed for Air Force Security use, but the .223 cartridge it fired was actually the .222 magnum hunting cartridge. The AR-15 has evolved into a hunting carbine. The civilian AR-15 is not an “Assault Rifle” as it cannot fire automatically. The AR-15 is statistically seldom used in “Gun Crimes” as are all “long guns” ( under 2%). The “spree killings” will take place using guns other than the AR-15. Most of the “Gun Crime” is done by inner city youth in the drug trade using small handguns .
    Detachable Magazine limits will not be effective in “spree shootings” as multiple guns can be used and many “fixed” magazine guns are designed for very fast reloading. A .357 revolver ( with speed loaders) would be much more devastating against a trapped unarmed child populace than a Ruger 10/22 semi-auto rifle Citizens have encountered multiple assailants in defensive situations, and should have adequate magazine capacity. Outlawing pistol grips, flash hiders, heat shields, and “shoulder thingies that go up” is superfluous legislation.
    A Hunter Safety Course would be a good course for gun owners to attend.
    Illegal guns and drugs are constant partners in “gun violence” as were guns, violence, and alcohol during the failed Prohibition era. Mexico is a great example of the folly of “Drug and Gun Control” which has been a desecration of the Mexican Constitution and the Rights of Mexican Citizens. The beneficiaries of the current policies are the Mexican Drug Cartels. Chicago is another example of failed “Gun and Drug Control” in which the Street Gangs benefit. “Drug Control” results in “Gun Control” and neither is controlled. It is past the time for drugs to be legalized and treated as alcohol. This would reduce the majority of “Gun Crime”.
    I have the highest respect for the Marine who served in Afghanistan telling the Gun Control Crowd to blow off and that he was keeping his AR-15.

    • Two of the countries with the strictest gun control laws are Germany and Japan, formerly two of the most militaristic of societies. They had a respective total of 57 and zero deaths by gun. We have over 30,000. This seems to indicate that gun control laws can work. If there, why not here? Are we not as capable of this as they? If not, why not? Are we, as a society, unable to control ourselves?

  3. I am surprised that this left-wing agenda would be published on a military site. I will regretible no longer be visiting your website.

    • Good policy. Disagree? Run away.

      • Came back to check responses.

        By publishing this article, this website is showing support of the views held therein. By visiting this website, I show my support of the website and thereby its articles.

        I do not read MSNBC, the New York Times or the Huffington Post for the same reasons.

      • And I choose not to argue because the website has the right to whatever views it pleases, and I have the right not to participate.

      • Sorry, looks like a previous post got missed somehow. Anyway, my thought was that by publishing this article ACG shows its support of the author’s views. If I were to continue to support this website, I would in effect show support of those views as well.

        For this same reason I do not read MSNBC, the New York Times, or the Huffington Post.

        The owners of this site can publish whatever they want (First Amendment). I don’t need to be on here raising a ruckus because I don’t agree. I’m not going away mad, I’m just going away.

  4. If only. This is becoming laughable. This gentleman does not seem to want to have anything to do with anything that challenges his entrenched point of view. How very open minded. Then he claims, over and over, that he is not going to visit the website any more, presumably because he does not wish to be subjected to any viewpoint that contradicts his own. I’m willing to bet the farm he is not done here. I’ve encountered these types many times before. They cannot help returning to see what is being said about them, and they certainly can’t refrain from responding. Wait and see. But please, when you read this, as I know you will, don’t respond. Just go away, as you promised.

  5. While I generally enjoy Mr. D’Este’s writings, I thoroughly disagree with his commentary here. First, as many other firearms foes have done, he mixes Sandy Hook and Autoloading rifles (the left’s self-defined “Assault Weapons”) where there is no connection. As you all should know, no rifles were used in that shooting. The connection is additionally nonexistent in most of the recent shootings leading up to that event. Yes, I agree, those teachers and other adults in the school were brave, protecting innocent lives. But banning rifles (beforehand) would have done NOTHING to save those poor children.

    There are statistics all over the place, on the “small” scale (Chicago and NYC for example) they clearly show that gun control has not stopped crime or murder. The large scale (US vs. Germany) might imply in some cases that no guns in the hands of citizens reduce the crime, in others (G

    In general, as in other countries (GB comes to mind) , removal of one type of firearm is the goal of certain members of the populace, this typically leads to the removal of all types of firearms.

    The second amendment of the constitution guarantees us the right to bear arms, not for hunting, not for target practice, but rather to defend us from enemies foreign and domestic. Many naysayers will drop their jaws and say “you can’t mean that” or “our government would never do that!”. Well, it all started that way (banning of firearms) in a few other places we are familiar with: Adolph Hitler’s Germany, the Soviet Union, etc.

    • First of all, murders by gun in NY are down from previous levels. The reason many still occur is that guns are brought into NY from states with far more lax gun laws. Nothing will “stop crime or murder”. But we must consider sensible restrictions that will limit crime and murder. If even one life is saved, it is worth the effort. If we fail to even make the effort, what does that say about us as a society?

      • It sounds like you are for removal of all firearms.

        Our society certainly has problems, less likely to do with inanimate objects like hammers, knives, rifles and such, but more to do with morals, mental conditions and gang-warfare. If you’re looking for a quick fix, banning hammers and clubs will stop murders much faster than “assault weapons” . Banning knives will do it almost 40x as fast (both based on an interpolation of about 48 “assault weapon” murders in 2011).

        I think it is a poor assumption that firearms are sold to NYC criminals by law-abiding residents of other US states.

        Cities (esp inner cities) are where the majority of violent crimes occur. How about focusing on them and finding a “sensible” solution to the probleems (there) including mental health, enforcement of laws, etc.

        I certainly do not want to be around when your “utopia” of no firearms in the hands of all U.S. private citizens is realized, for reasons I outlined in my original post.


        “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” – Benjamin Franklin

  6. Thanks for your comment, Ralph(Peters?), but your assumption is erroneous. I am not for the banning of all weapons. I see no need to restrict a hunters right to have a rifle or a home or business owners right to own a handgun or shotgun to protect his home or business. But no one can convince me that an average citizen has a need for a military style assault weapon who’s only purpose is to kill many targets in as short a time as possible. Nor did I say law abiding citizens from other states are selling firearms to criminals in NY. It is not an assumption, but a fact that guns purchased in other states with far more lax gun laws than NY do find their way into NY. Whichever citizens are doing this, I certainly would not refer to them as law-abiding. With the level of disagreement on this subject, I don’t believe much will change. We are a violent society and will remain so. But to not even try to , in some small way, to limit the carnage, is extremely irresponsible of us as a society, IMO.

    • No, not Peters, I’m flattered though.

      The banning of one form of firearm will lead to banning of shotguns, pistols, and the rest, just ask Britain how that works. Now they’re working on a knife ban!

      The point of my NYS comment is that criminals will always find what they need, in spite of any laws that good citizens will follow.

      Unfortunately, the left pushes folks to fall back to the “we have to do something” idea and when the other side shows that something is ineffective, and suggests other solutions, they disregard them offhand.

      You are right, both sides are widely separated, but I fear the president will act in spite of the constitution and will follow ideas that are unlikely to produce results based on recent history.

      • We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this matter. Yes, Britain has very strict laws and how do their death by guns statistics measure up to ours? Their ratio is far lower than ours. Is that not something to try for? You seem certain that the moment anyone tries to do anything to limit the carnage, they are intent on banning all weapons, a very NRA stance. That is just not the case and never will be. I reiterate, just because you can’t stop all murders or crime does not mean you throw up your hands and do nothing. That would just be irresponsible. I do appreciate you comments and point of view, even if I do not agree with them. It’s called a discussion and an exchange of ideas, something I wish our Congress could achieve.