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THE SECRET LIFE OF A HERO

by Tim Mollen
Published as a Guest Viewpoint in
The Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
November 30, 2004

A Quiet Man Who Improved Many Lives

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell announced his death, and ordered that every U.S. embassy in the world fly the American flag at half-mast until after his funeral. News of his tragic end was front-page news not just in his hometown newspaper, The Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, but also in The Washington Post. NBC Nightly News is preparing a feature story on his life and work. U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte led an overflowing memorial service in Baghdad. A major general in the Marine Corps is escorting his remains on the long journey: from Baghdad, to Kuwait, to Germany, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, and finally to Binghamton. Thousands of letters, emails, and phone calls continue to pour into the offices of his colleagues and the homes of his family.

All this for Jimmy Mollen? The quiet, smart kid from the South Side? The short, scrappy player from St. Johnís CYO basketball team? It would have seemed more likely that he would be remembered for his habit of giving horrible Christmas gifts, like the year he gave copies of Rush Limbaugh books to every single member of his large (and Democratic) family. Or for his penchant for wearing painfully loud Hawaiian shirts. With impeccably tailored suit coats. And shorts.

Jim was more a do-er than a talker. He was reluctant to go into much detail about what he was up to on a daily basis. We knew he had friends. We didnít know he had friends in Brazil, Senegal, and the Czech Republic. We knew he did charity work. We didnít know he worked to plant trees, or that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had done a feature story on his volunteer work for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Summit. We knew that he was a founding board member of the charity Orphanage Outreach. We didnít know that ďJaimieĒ was especially beloved by the children he met on his dozen or so extended trips to orphanages in the Dominican Republic. We knew that he volunteered to work for sixteen months in war-torn Baghdad, staying long after most of his colleagues had departed. We didnít know that he was making regular, unguarded trips outside the safety of the heavily fortified Green Zone to visit elementary schools, universities, and Iraqi government ministries.

Itís tempting to say that itís too bad Jim is being recognized for his extraordinary work only after his death. But Jim didnít want recognition. He wanted children to have homes. He didnít want tributes and accolades. He wanted donations and volunteers to make the world safer and more just. Itís also tempting to say that our governmentís foreign policy is responsible for Jimís death. But Jim passionately believed in America, and in our need to show leadership in the world. In a time when too much lip service is given to ďmoral values,Ē Jim lived them. He embodied the values of freedom, integrity, service, and love for all of Godís children. Of the many wonderful descriptions written about Jim in the past few days, I think two would have meant the most to him. One friend described him simply as ďa good American.Ē Another said he was ďa great humanitarian.Ē We can honor his memory by striving to be those same two things.

So in this week of Thanksgiving, I say thank you to my beautiful brother. Thank you for being a teacher, a leader, and a great and humble man. I take some comfort in knowing that if America had never invaded Iraq, it is quite likely Jim would have volunteered for duty in another dangerous place, like Afghanistan or Sudan. He went where the need was. Thatís why I know heís here with his family and friends now.

 

Jim Mollen at Monte Cristi orphanage

 

Jim Mollen Orphanage Education Fund

 

Secret Life of a Hero: Jim Mollen
     


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