Marine Corps pins a medal on 1st Lt. James Brady (ret.)

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In the spring of 1952, during the Korean War, 1st Lt. James Brady of the U.S. Marine Corps led an attack on the right flank of the enemy trench line. It was stopped by intense fire and hand grenades, but Lt. Brady reorganized his squad's flank, directing the base of fire with small arms and grenades against the enemy position when he and his squad were forced to withdraw due to the number of casualties. Lt. Brady took command of all able-bodied and walking wounded to evacuate the seriously wounded from the hill.

Six weeks later, Jim Brady was rotated home-not knowing his senior officer had recommended him for the Silver Star. Two years ago, at a party for his new book, "The Marines of Autumn," Jim ran into his old superior, retired Col. Stew McCarty. Col. McCarty asked Jim what medal he received for that firefight in 1952. It was the first Jim had heard of any medal, and Col. McCarty quickly wrote a letter requesting that Jim be awarded the medal he had recommended so many years ago. The Marines investigated and awarded Jim the Bronze Star, one notch down from the Silver Star (which is the usual procedure). But it was a medal that comes with the cherished combat V for valor.

The Bronze Star presentation was to take place Sept. 21 at Camp Lejeune but the events of Sept. 11 postponed the ceremony. Happily for myself and for Jim's other friends and colleagues in New York, his big day was made part of the 226th U.S. Marine Corps birthday gala at the Intrepid Museum on Nov. 8. It was quite a night. You had the Marine band, Marines playing bagpipes, and a stirring rendition of "From the Halls of Montezuma." You rubbed shoulders with Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel, former (and future) New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerry (now head of the New School). Stagebill prexy Gerry Byrne was co-chairman of the event with Mr. Keitel. (I just wanted to show you I can drop as many names as Jim does.)

The Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James L. Jones, is a bear of a man-6 feet 5 inches tall, close-cropped hair, jutting jaw-a poster boy for what you would imagine the head of the Marines would look like. Commandant Jones pinned the Bronze Star on Jim. He said he was there to "correct an injustice" and "to do something long overdue."

The two men-Lt. Brady and Gen. Jones-stood facing each other, both rigidly at attention. Jim's eyes were locked on the general's as a young Marine major read the citation-the first time Jim had heard its exact words. "With total disregard for his own safety, he exposed himself to an intense barrage of enemy hand grenades and small arms fire while ensuring the successful evacuation of the Marine casualties. By his extraordinary heroism in the face of extreme danger, 1st Lt. Brady reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service," the citation read. Then Gen. Jones pinned on Jim's medal.

"The Marine Corps doesn't rush into things," Jim said. "I haven't spent the last 49 years wringing my hands over the medal because I always had the medal. It wasn't on my breast; it was in my heart. I had the great privilege and high honor of commanding U.S. Marines in deadly combat and doing it competently and with honor. There is no higher decoration or citation than that," Jim told his fellow Marine combatants and all the others gathered for the birthday celebration.

When Jim started writing his column for Ad Age, 25 years ago next year, we told him to write about anything that interested him that week. "That's what made the column attractive to me," he told me. He was on Rupert Murdoch's payroll at the time, and Rupert gave his blessing "as long as you don't tell them our family secrets."

This has been a big month for Jim. It also marked the 25th anniversary of "Page Six," the must-read column he started for Murdoch's New York Post. In an article he wrote for the Post to commemorate the event, Jim ended up: "Oh, what a town this is! Oh, what a life it's been!"

We're proud to be a part of that life, and we're proud of Jim's courageous acts in a forlorn place, so different from the rest of his life, almost a half-century ago.

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