Beharry is the first recipient of the Victoria Cross since the posthumous awards to Lieutenant Colonel H. Jones and Sergeant Ian John McKay for service in the Falklands War in 1982. He is the first living recipient of the VC since Keith Payne and Rayene Stewart Simpson, both Australian, for actions in Vietnam in 1969, and the first living recipient of the VC in the British Army since Rambahadur Limbu, a Gurkha, in the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation in 1965. As of 26 June 2006, he is one of only 12 living recipients of the VC, and the youngest.
Beharry was born in Grenada, and has four brothers and three sisters. He moved to the UK in 1999.
On 1 May 2004, Beharry was driving a Warrior Tracked Armoured Vehicle that had been called to the assistance of a foot patrol caught in a series of ambushes. The Warrior was hit by multiple rocket propelled grenades, causing damage and resulting in the loss of radio communications. The platoon commander, the vehicle’s gunner and a number of other soldiers in the vehicle were injured. Beharry drove through the ambush, taking his own crew and leading five other Warriors to safety. He then extracted his wounded colleagues from the vehicle, all the time exposed to further enemy fire. He was cited on this occasion for "valour of the highest order".
While back on duty on 11 June 2004, Beharry was again driving the lead Warrior vehicle of his platoon through Al Amarah when his vehicle was ambushed. A rocket propelled grenade hit the vehicle and Beharry received serious head injuries. Other rockets hit the vehicle incapacitating his commander and injuring several of the crew. Despite his very serious injuries, Beharry then took control of his vehicle and drove it out of the ambush area before losing consciousness. He required brain surgery for his head injuries, and he was still recovering when he was awarded the VC in March 2005. He suggested on at least one occasion that he would return to military service if physically able.
But the BBC is not unique in its sensibilities. In Littleton, Colorado a group of parents are opposing "a soldier memorial located near three schools and two playgrounds should be relocated because the design showing a Navy SEAL clutching an automatic rifle glorifies violence," according to CBS.
The book Stolen Valor may provide the key to understanding this peculiar sensibility. Military researcher B.G. Burkett showed how the story of Vietnam veterans was not only distorted -- the second chapter of his book was entitled "Welcome home, baby killers" -- but how fake veterans, conforming to the media stereotype were produced in place of the real thing. Not only was the collective memory of veterans effaced, a counterfeit was produced in its stead. Nor has the process stopped. Many readers will probably recall the star of the Pepperspray Productions video special, Jessie Macbeth: Former Army Ranger and Iraq War Veteran. In place of the real Johnson Beharry, the public is served up the recollections of the fake Ranger Jesse Macbeth.
Not all of the mythmaking is by the Left, however. Pat Tilman, for example, is now believed to have been killed by friendly fire instead of enemy action, although that does not diminish Tilman in the least. But certain individuals, who are now being investigated, sought to conceal that fact in their attempt to control the narrative. Ancient Greek warriors used to struggle for the bodies of the fallen, the Iliad has a memorable scene describing the struggle over the armor and body of Patroclus. All through history, bards and historians, warriors and filmmakers and men of every ideology have fought to possess the memory of the battlefield and turn them to their purposes.
In that battle, warlike Menelaus, son of Atreus,
noticed that the Trojans had just killed Patroclus.
Dressed in gleaming armour, he strode through the ranks
of those fighting in the front, then made a stand
over the corpse, like a mother beside her calf,
lowing over her first born, with no experience
of giving birth till then. In just that way,
fair-haired Menelaus stood above Patroclus.
In front of him he held his spear and a round shield,
eager to kill anyone who might come at him.
Unfortunately current events are often too charged with controversy to be told truthfully. The passage of time often makes it possible to make more balanced judgements simply because the political partisans have left the scene. Today we know that Winston Churchill bore a large responsibility for the firebombing of Dresden and the Fall of Singapore, but also that he among all the statesmen of his era, was chiefly responsible for saving Western European civilization from Hitler. He was great man only in the balance, a fact everyone can now acknowledge because 60 years separate us from events. It's now even possible to safely discuss Vietnam, now that we have Iraq to divide us; even possible to acknowledge that the North Vietnamese were more than occasionally given a hiding. Here is part of the story of Dick Schaffert's epic dogfight, alone in an F-8 Crusader against 4 Mig-17s and 2 Mig-21s over North Vietnam. If we can't remember Johnson Beharry on the BBC, there's still Dick Schaffert on the History Channel.