Photo of Butch O’Hare By US Navy employee – Office of War Information National Archives, via Naval Historical Center website.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, a legacy is “something that has come from an ancestor or predecessor or the past”. Here’s the fact – we all have a legacy to pass on whether we like it or not. As you listen to this story of a man who gave everything to leave a good and lasting legacy, ask yourself this question, “What will my legacy be?”
In the 1920’s there was a man who literally ruled the city of Chicago. He was a gangster named Al Capone. And he was involved in everything from bootlegging booze, to prostitution, to murder. He had an attorney they called Easy Eddie, and he was good – very good. So good that no matter what trouble Capone got into, Easy Eddie could get him off.
Now, this made Easy Eddie a very rich man, but he had a problem. He had a young son that he loved dearly and wanted the very best for him. And as this young boy grew up, more and more Easy Eddie could see that his sordid life could not be stopped from molding his son to be a man just like him. So Easy Eddie had a tough decision—did he offer his son a good and wealthy life, or a good name?
Well, Easy Eddie made up his mind. He determined to go to the police and tell the truth about Al Capone. He knew it would cost him dearly, but he wanted more than anything to be an example to his son. So Easy Eddie turned in Al Capone and Capone’s reign of power ended. Easy Eddie testified, Al Capone went to Alcatraz Federal Prison, and not long after, Easy Eddie was mowed down by a hail of gunfire on the streets of Chicago. He had given his son the greatest gift he could offer at the greatest price he could pay.
And what became of Easy Eddie’s legacy? This brings me to my second story of a man, a lieutenant commander and fighter pilot in WWII. His name was Butch O’Hare.
One day Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare and his entire squad were sent on a mission. Once in the air, Butch noticed there was something wrong with his plane – he had only a small amount of fuel. So his commanding officer told him to return to his ship.
But as he made his return, far from the other planes and his ship, Butch saw something that turned his blood ice cold. It was a squadron of Japanese bombers speeding their way toward the American fleet. If he didn’t stop the bombers, many American soldiers would die.
So even though he had only a little fuel left, Butch O’Hare flew his plane right into that fleet of Japanese bombers with his .50 caliber guns blazing. And, as they returned his fire, he was undaunted. He would not stop – he could not stop. He must save his ship. So even though his own plane was pelted with enemy bullets, he kept dodging and fighting until his ammunition was all spent, and he had destroyed five enemy bombers. The Japanese bomber mission was broken and, somehow, Butch O’Hare made it back to his ship.
When it was discovered just what he had done, putting his very life on the line to save his fellow men, Butch O’Hare became the first naval aviator to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Sadly, a year later, Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare was killed in combat at only the age of 29. But, his hometown of Chicago would not let his memory die, and today the Chicago O’Hare airport bears his name.
Oh, and one other piece to this story of legacies. That young son to Easy Eddie, the boy that Easy Eddie literally died for to restore his good family name and to give his son a father he could be proud of – that young boy’s name was Butch O’Hare.
You see, everyone, each of us, has a legacy. What will your legacy be? It’s up to you.