This past summer in his NRO Impromptus column Jay Nordlinger opened with thoughts prompted by Army Captain Ivan Castro:
Lately, I’ve had occasion to think about what is cool and what is not. And by “cool” I mean admired, thought groovy, especially by the young. And do you know what is cool — or rather, who is cool? The late-night-comedy people. I don’t mean the Jay Leno types, I mean the Jon Stewart types — the comedians-cum-pundits. The cynics, the sneerers, the sideline jeerers.
That type of journalist is cool too, for some reason. (The New Republic and Vanity Fair are two publications that specialize in such people.)
Anyway, here’s my question: Why is Capt. Ivan Castro not cool?
Jay linked to the AP story by Kevin Maurer on Captain Castro. The link no longer works, but the story is still accessible here. Jay quoted the story and added the bracketed question:
When Capt. Ivan Castro joined the Army, he set goals: to jump out of planes, kick in doors and lead soldiers into combat. He achieved them all. Then the mortar round landed five feet away, blasting away his sight.
“Once you’re blind, you have to set new goals,” Castro said. [Is that the most strangely matter-of-fact statement you’ve ever heard?]
He set them higher.
Not content with just staying in the Army, he is the only blind officer serving in the Special Forces — the small, elite units famed for dropping behind enemy lines on combat missions.
Jay then asked: “Why isn’t Ivan Castro a twentieth as admired as — not to single him out, but . . . — Jon Stewart? How did the whole country become Lenny Bruce-ified?”
Jay visited Fort Bragg to seek out Captain Castro. He reports on his meeting in the article “Captain Extraordinary” in the February 9 issue of National Review. (Jay quotes from the article and links to a photo of Captain Casto “in marathon mode” in his current column here; the February 9 issue of NR is accessible to subscribers here.) In the article Jay deepens the portrait of Captain Castro, eliciting comments from him about the mental challenges of living with his disability:
Castro has what he calls his “demons in the darkness,” or “demons in the closet.” And “the closet is my brain. I don’t see anything. I’m totally blind. I have no light perception. And when the demons want to take over, as soon as they try to, I try to keep them out. I think about all the things I’m grateful for: my wife, my son, the Lord above, His mission for me.” There are days “when I walk into the wall, both literally and figuratively. I try to take a step back and not get angry and figure out a way to go around things.”
Jay concludes on a note that cannot be repeated too often: “A visit with Ivan Castro will teach you, or remind you, not to complain. It will remind you what a free people owes its warriors. And it will remind you to be in awe of those who do the awe-inspiring.”
UPDATE: Reader Bob Loftus writes from Dallas:
Could you check with your sources and see if Captain Castro would accept or welcome letters from people who admire his courage and battle against those “demons in the darkness.” Perhaps some correspondence from the good people of this country might provide some solace; some voices from the side acquainted with the “angels in the light.”
Jay Nordlinger says “absolutely yes” and suggests that writing Captain Castro “at Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, NC will do it.” (I think the zip code is 28307.)
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