There’s this new show on Netflix that I can’t stop watching. It’s a documentary series called Medal of Honor. If you haven’t seen it, it’s so worth bingeing through this holiday season. But, there was one particular story, of one particular hero, who’s story shook me to my core.
His name was Sylvester Antolak. And, chances are, you’ve never heard his name. Which, isn’t a surprise. There aren’t any Sylvester Antolak National Parks or even park benches named after him. He didn’t become president of the United States. Nor, a five-star general. But, his story of bravery gave me goosebumps all over my body.
To briefly summarize his truly heroic tale— Antolak and his men faced sure death. Hiding behind the ruins of an old Italian countryside barn, the Nazi soldiers they were ordered to watch caught whiff of their plan to smoke them out. And, before they knew it, bullets from a machine gun started raining down on them. Pop. Pop. Pop. A thousand times over.
Antolak had two choices. As the commanding officer of his platoon, he could have screamed, “every man for himself,” as they dashed for cover. Or, he could instead, give an act of love so great, and save his men over himself.
Antolak chose the later.
Charging the Nazis alone, raining bullets on him like a thunderstorm of fury, he ran at them at full force. Armed with only a pistol and rifle. Pop. Pop. Pop. Antolak ran, retaliating with his own bullets at the enemy. He was cleverly focusing all of the artillery fire on himself, so his men could escape, and live to see another day.
Antolak would be shot three times. Each blow knocking him to the ground. Taking his breath. But, nonetheless, he got up, and continued running towards the enemy. Until finally, he was in a short enough distance where he unloaded his rifle. Killing two Germans and forcing 10 to surrender. His brave act however, would inspire his men, not to escape. But, charge after him. And, storm the German stronghold together. With their leader at the helm.
What happened next was truly amazing. Antolak, reorganizing his men, refused to seek medical attention, and noticed another German stronghold just 100 yards away. Disregarding the new rain of enemy bullets, he ran into battle a second time. Alone. Protecting his men. And, with all the bullets concentrated on him, he almost took the identical stronghold singlehandedly again. Until he was killed instantly by enemy fire.
I’m telling you. You must watch the Netflix special. And try not to be utterly inspired.
Why bring this up? What does Sylvester Antolak have anything to do with relationships?
What inspired me to write about this man was not just his act of sheer heroism. But, the comments the men who watched his valiant act said in their reports of the incident. One of those being this sentence: “This man could not be stopped.”
Antolak understood the meaning of honor. He valued his men so much, that he chose, instead of putting his needs, wants and desires first, to put his men and country before him. And, so with an act of bravery, he ended up saving the lives of his platoon, and the other American soldiers who were marching towards Rome that day during World War II.
In this mindset, we all have a battlefield when it comes to our relationships. And, it’s easy to choose the easy option. It’s easy to choose “me” instead of “we.” It’s easy to give up, and run for cover when the going gets hard.
But, are we after comfortability or legacy? Do we want to receive a “Medal of Honor” for fighting the good fight, and serving our family with everything we’ve got? I sure do. And, I know you do too.
What if we chose to look at each day like Sylvester Antolak? What if we couldn’t be stopped in our pursuit of love?
It’s a noble question.