Sins of Omission

Foss's Flying Circus

In the early 1960's, I was introduced to a fellow motorcycle rider by the name of Steve Foss. Before I could say anything, he quickly offered, "No relation to Joe Foss." He had anticipated my question and that of nearly everyone he had met for years back. For most Americans back then, the name Foss immediately brought to mind one of the greatest heroes in American history, the Marine fighter pilot who terrified the Japanese at Guadalcanal and was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Forty years later, not only had Joe Foss's name been forgotten, but the Medal of Honor had become something that Americans failed to recognize. In January 2002, the 86-year-old Foss was passing through security at Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport when screeners discovered three suspicious items on his person: a key holder made from a dummy bullet; a small nail file; and a five-pointed star with a ribbon attached. The medal star puzzled the screeners and they thought it dangerous. Seven or eight of them held it, inspected it, and were unable to identify it. "I kept explaining that it was the highest medal you can receive from the military in this country," said Foss,

but nobody listened. . . . I was held up for 45 minutes, while they decided what to do about the medal. I almost missed my flight, as they went back and forth. . . . I wasn't upset for me. I was upset for the Medal of Honor, that they just didn't...

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