By Nate Smith
Washington Times Herald
After the funeral of Lt. Col. Don Carlos Faith Jr., a man came to the reception at the Army-Navy Club.
No one knew who he was other than the “Rocky” sewn onto his black and yellow Korean War veteran jacket. He came up to a table where a picture of Faith was, along with several other mementos, including his Medal of Honor.
Tom Brummett, a Faith historian from Washington, came up to him and asked if he knew Col. Faith.
“Yes,” he said. “I’m just here to say goodbye to my commander.”
He stepped up to the table and looked down to the picture. Rocky then gave a salute and then left. He did not go to the ceremony where Faith’s remains were buried 62 years after his death.
“He drove all the way there just to salute him and then left,” Brummett said this week. “No one got his full name. They didn’t know his last name. That’s honor. That’s love for a man right there.”
Rocky’s salute was one of many stories passed around after the funeral of one of Washington’s Medal of Honor recipients last week at Arlington National Cemetery. Brummett flew to Washington D.C. for the ceremony, and was amazed at the loyalty some of Faith’s men in the old 32nd Battalion of the 7th Infantry still have for their commander.
Brummett considered last week’s ceremony to be “the third greatest day of his life” after his wedding day and the birth of his sons. He considered it so because of what Faith meant to this country and to Washington.
“We should take to the fact that he is from here and the honor of his service,” Brummett said.
Brummett, along with Ind. Rep. Mark Messmer, led an effort to rename two bridges on Interstate 69 after Faith and Pvt. Richard Taylor, Washington’s other Medal of Honor recipient. Messmer also went to Arlington to be part of the ceremony. Three soldiers were at the funeral and one was the last person to see Faith before he was left behind in the rush to retreat the Chosin Reservoir on Dec. 1, 1950. When the Chinese overran the Americans, South Koreans and their allies, it was Faith’s 32nd that kept the Chinese at bay long enough for a withdrawal.
“There was one gentleman who was on the last truck (in the withdraw) and went to grab Col. Faith as he fell away,” Brummett said. “Two (men) were near him when he fell.”
Faith personally led a counterattack against the Chinese line and ordered men across the frozen reservoir to inform Marines on the other side who were about to be surrounded by the onslaught. He was wounded in the counterattack and died from his wounds a day later. Faith’s actions are still taught in military history and tactics.
“To make sure everyone got out, (Faith) made sure he placed the dead and wounded onto the trucks and he stood still fighting while they took the preparations to get away,” Brummett said. “He went down to the fact he was firing his pistol at the end.”
For many, including Brummett, last week’s ceremony was something they thought they would never see. Faith’s remains were identified last year following a 2004 expedition to recover remains from Chosin by the U.S. and North Korea. He was buried along with other soldiers in a mass grave near the battlefield by the Chinese.
“Lt. Col. Faith’s daughter (Bobbie) explained it took a lot of negotiation with the North Korean government to recover his remains,” Brummett said.
The South Korean embassy in Washington sent its top military adjutant to the funeral, along with a wreath for the ceremony. For many who may have known Faith or knew of him, the funeral had many emotions with it.
“It was pretty emotional in the sense it was sad because of what occurred to him,” Brummett said. “But also a happy day because it brought closure to the family because he could be buried in the United States.” For Brummett, who never had the chance to meet Col. Faith, he got a chance to know the man through the stories of those he served with.
“They all said Faith had two qualities that made him a great commander and officer,” Brummett said. “One was he cared about his men and two, he was the type of leader that led from the front. He never ordered anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.”
Both Indiana Sens. Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly sent representatives to the funeral and offered praise for Faith’s service and sacrifice. Donnelly said the flags flown at the service will go to the local American Legion and VFW posts.
“His desire to take charge of his men while being vastly outnumbered by the enemy was an act of heroism that has not been forgotten,” Coats said in a statement.
Before last week’s ceremony, a local ceremony and wreath was placed at Faith’s monument at the Hill of Heroes at Eastside Park. The man instrumental for getting that monument at the hill was former Daviess County Treasurer and history lover Martin Mumaw III. Mumaw died in March and probably, if he could have, would have been at Arlington.
“I thought about him the entire ceremony how much he would have appreciated it and very proud because he knew the family,” Brummett said.
For Brummett, the stories of both Faith and Taylor are ones that do not end with their honors. Their stories will continue to be told throughout the generations as Washington’s heroes.
“I think their bravery and honor should be eternalized and honored so that everyone knows about it,” Brummett said. “People that see their name would want to learn more about them and take pride they were from Washington and the fact they are veterans of our country and made the ultimate sacrifice for that.”