This week there has been a lot of talk about Captain Humayun Khan, an American hero. His father’s comments at the Democratic National Convention created a tidal wave of media coverage. People have taken sides, the press continues to stir the pot, and I am concerned that the most important part of the story is getting lost in all the noise. So, I am going to focus this blog on the heroic actions of Captain Kahn. Both of you boys have heard this story before, but it is worth telling again.
You will recall that I knew Humayun Kahn when he was a student at UVA. He was enrolled in the Army ROTC program while I was an instructor there from 1999-2001. I remember Humayun as a fine young man. He was pretty serious, focused on success, and responsive to training. He performed well as an ROTC cadet. To be frank – he did not really stand out from his peers. He fit in and showed great leadership potential like all his classmates did when they graduated from UVA and received their commissions. I did not think much about him until years later when I learned that he was killed in action while serving in Iraq. Like everyone who knew him, I took the news hard. I could only imagine what his family was going through. I can think of no greater challenge in life than losing a child.
It is worth talking about the heroic actions Captain Kahn took when he paid the ultimate sacrifice. Here is a brief description:
On June 8, Khan was inspecting a guard post when a suspicious taxicab began approaching too quickly. Ordering his subordinates away from the vehicle, Khan ran forward 10–15 steps and was killed by a suicide car bomb fitted with an improvised explosive device. The car detonated before it could reach the gates or the nearby mess hall where hundreds of soldiers were eating breakfast. Khan was also posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Several years ago I participated in Veteran’s Day activities at a local elementary school. At that event, I shared the story of Captain Kahn with the students. I explained the circumstances of his death, and described three reasons why I believe he is a true American hero.
- Captain Kahn put others first. He ordered his troops to take cover so that they were safe while he assessed the situation. He thought about them before he thought about himself.
- Captain Kahn possessed the personal courage to face danger head-on. He did not shy away from it. It is not a natural act for any of us to put ourselves in harm’s way. In this case, he saved the life of many, by sacrificing his own.
- Captain Kahn built a legacy for others to emulate. His story of courage, bravery, and sacrifice should inspire us to greatness. When I think of Kahn and his sacrifice, it makes me want to be a better person. I hope it does the same for you.
I do not expect that many of us will ever face a similar situation. Lord knows that I hope neither of you ever do. But, it is reassuring to know that we have heroes like Kahn in our midst. Heroes do exist. They don’t wear capes, fly an invisible jet, or come from another planet. Rather they are everyday people – like you and me. The difference is that they do extraordinary things when called into action.
As you know, we used to live in the same house that the Kahns owned when their son died, and that I have met his family. I will share that part of the story at a later date – when the time is right. This blog post is about honoring Captain Humayun Kahn, so I will end here.
John 15:13. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.