America’s Greatness Is in Its People

America's Greatness Is in Its People

This is a strange time in America. We have a "do-nothing" Congress whose major goal, other than bottling up meaningful legislation, seems to be to destroy the President regardless of the damage to our country and our people. The goal of many states, it seems, is to disenfranchise many of its citizens of the right to vote. We are in the process of waging the longest war in our history and we have a conservative Supreme Court which ruled that corporations are "people," allowing big money donors to pollute the electoral system. 

We may not be able to find inspiration today in our nation's capital, but we don't have to look far to find it in our own backyard. A recently published book, "Strength In Numbers," tells the real life story of Joe Walters, who grew up in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia before moving to Springfield, Montgomery County, with his parents, Raymond and Caroline Walters, five brothers and a sister. After his father's death, the family moved to Ocean City, NJ, where they had a summer home.

By his own admission, Joe was not a great student as he progressed through the school system, so he "made a deal" with his teachers that if they allowed him to graduate, he would immediately join the Army, which he did. Serving in the armed forces was a tradition in the Walters family. His brothers Billy and Dick were in the Marine Corps and his brother Charlie was in the Navy. 

A two-year hitch provided the time and direction he previously lacked and, after his discharge, Joe attended Waynesboro College in Pennsylvania. After graduation in 1967 with a B.A. in elementary education and a minor in psychology, he decided to apply for Officers Candidate School in the Marine Corps — just in time for the Vietnam War.

2nd Lt. Joe Walters served with distinction in Vietnam, where he won the Bronze Star and Silver Star for bravery in action and was wounded while leading a platoon of Marines across a rice paddy to Goi Noi Island in 1968. The wound resulted in the amputation of the lower part of his left leg and that began the second chapter of his life — learning to live with the loss of his leg and never letting that stop him from achieving a number of goals few others accomplish.

To get into condition after his hospitalization, Walters began to practice judo, which his brother Dick (and later his brother John) both came to master, winning many championships in the process. But a one-legged judo player, especially one whose goal was to compete in major tournaments, was more than just a novelty. It was a first.  To his credit, that never stopped him and, from 1979 through 1994, Joe won first place at the U.S. Judo National Masters Championships eight times and never placed lower than third in three other competitions. 

During those same years, Joe Walters was an elementary school teacher in Dennis Township, NJ, where, in his words, "I taught everything except gym, art and music."  I won't go  any further into the story of Joe's life, which is beautifully detailed by his son, Joseph F. Walters, in "Strength In Numbers." It is a book that will inspire everyone who reads it. And, typical of Joe Walters, the proceeds from the sale of the book (available at both Amazon.com and Kindle) are being donated to Veterans Charities.

The following was written by Joe Walters' company commander, Captain Frank Pacello, and I thought it would be appropriate to include it here: 

"As we were walking off the hill, I thought about the young men who gave their all and refused to give up. Many of them just out of high school, but they had the courage to survive. They shared their last drop of water and food with the men in the platoon. They wouldn't hesitate to rescue a wounded man. Some of them had been wounded and sent back to the company. They were exposed to the elements — freezing at times and unbelievable heat. Sleeping on the ground, averaging four hours a sleep if that. Eating c-rations for weeks or sometimes months at a time. I will always be proud of them."

Beau Weisman, Editor