Mike Sallis has put his laid-back video up on YouTube, in which he sits and talks into the camera and wonders if anyone has heard about his late friend, Joe Hooper, America's greatest unknown war hero. As of this writing, the video has drawn all of 60 views since its posting July 12. That was the 150th anniversary of the day President Abe Lincoln signed a bill establishing the Congressional Medal of Honor. Joe Hooper, of Moses Lake and Seattle, is a recipient.
That's curious, since Hooper was the larger hero, judging by the medal commendations.
York, with just seven men at his side, fearlessly took a machine gun nest in WWI manned by 132 enemy soldiers. Murphy dauntlessly risked his life calling in artillery fire around him during a WWII battle and, though wounded, took command of machine guns and accounted for 50 kills.
Marvelous heroics to be sure. Joe Hooper? Even moreso.
He killed at least 115 enemy in Vietnam, 24 in a six-hour firefight in February 1968, lobbing grenades into Viet Cong bunkers and wading through withering machine-gun fire to repeatedly rescue wounded American soldiers (only 14 out of 189 survived).
After treatment for his wounds, Hooper broke out of the hospital to return to his unit and fight some more. (Full citation here).
His 37 medals were more than those earned by either Murphy or York. He could be the country's all-time greatest war hero. But, 44 years later, he's still not movie worthy.
That might have to do with Joe having been a boozer, trying to forget Vietnam, Sallis says. Hooper died in 1979, in an accident inside his Kentucky hotel room likely related to his drinking. He was 39.
Or it might have to do with America trying to forget Vietnam, and thus Hooper, the most decorated American soldier to emerge from that bloody fiasco.
But what mostly bothers Sallis, himself a wounded Vietnam combat vet, is that Murphy and York have VA medical facilities named after them, in Texas and Tennessee. For more than 30 years, Sallis has been trying to get one named after his pal Joe.
There is an Army reserve facility in Bothell with Hooper's name on it. And there's a small plaque bearing his name that no one can ever seem to find in a wing of the Seattle VA facility.
Bu there's no Joe Hooper VA Medical Center like there ought to be, says Sallis, who, along with Hooper, used to work for the VA.
He's talked to dozens of officials, written them letters and e-mails, and every once in awhile tries to get someone in the press interested in his cause.
He hasn't given up. But he's not sure who will listen to him anymore.
So he made a video and hopes it might create a groundswell, prompting people to write their political representatives, such as Sen. Patty Murray, a big champion of the troops, or Rep. Doc Hastings, in whose district Hooper was raised, and where Sallis now lives - in Joe's hometown, Moses Lake.
Just yesterday in Hasting's 4th congressional district, the Yakima Armed Forces Reserve Center and a building at the Army's Yakima Training Center were named in honor of two war fighters, Sgt. Ross A. Clevenger and Maj. Alan Johnson, who were killed in Iraq.
That's great. But like Murphy and York, Hooper merits a greater honor, says Sallis.
"I don't know why this hasn't happened for Joe as it has for the other two individuals," says his friend in the video. "I don't know."