More Than Just A Mid-Game Interview

I’m a little late on this but I was watching my friend Kevin Burkhardt of SNY do a seemingly typical Independence Day interview in the middle of the Mets-Reds opener Monday night, when another friend popped up on my screen. 

Kevin was interviewing MSNBC analyst Jack Jacobs, who is usually a part of the Mets’ commendable but never over-the-top salutes to our military heroes. He’s part of them not just because he’s a Brooklyn kid, and media-savvy, and a baseball fan, but because he is truly one of those heroes.

I’ve known Jack Jacobs for seven years or so. When I returned to my television news job, he was already there, one of what was then a flock of “military analysts.” The analysts program would prove to have some serious ethical breaches but several of the men proved themselves well above and beyond such standards, and Jack was one of them. He could be analytical about the mechanics of war and strategy, he was skeptical about the interaction of politics and war, and he was unafraid to criticize bad judgements whether they were in the field or in Washington, or at the anchor desk.
At some point early in our acquaintanceship, I happened to hear – not from Jack, mind you – that he was one of what is still less than 3500 Americans to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. One would be tempted to analogize this to membership in the Hall of Fame, except given the millions of men who have fought for this nation, the ratio is wildly inappropriate. It might be closer to the Military parallel for a Perfect Game. Or maybe two of them.
Only ninety of the recipients are still living. Ninety. Thus it is, perhaps, like bumping into Sandy Koufax in the office and he’s joking about your tie or his shoes.
Whenever I see Jack in a public setting (I know him too well to do this when I bump into him in the office, because he’s always got some funky word-game going on, and invariably, and inexplicably, calls me “Doctor”) I am always reminded to go and re-read Jack’s Medal of Honor citation. It invariably gives me chills, and it invariably reads like something out of your worst nightmare, or some kind of science fiction.
Read it. We always talk about “remembering the troops every day of the year” and the week following the 4th of July is the perfect time to put that into practice. Read it, and then let me tell you one more thing about my friend Jack:


Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, U.S. Army Element, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Republic of Vietnam. Place and date: Kien Phong Province, Republic of Vietnam, 9 March 1968. Entered service at: Trenton, N.J. Born: 2 August 1945, Brooklyn, N.Y. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Jacobs (then 1st Lt.), Infantry, distinguished himself while serving as assistant battalion advisor, 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division, Army of the Republic of Vietnam. The 2d Battalion was advancing to contact when it came under intense heavy machine gun and mortar fire from a Viet Cong battalion positioned in well fortified bunkers. As the 2d Battalion deployed into attack formation its advance was halted by devastating fire. Capt. Jacobs, with the command element of the lead company, called for and directed air strikes on the enemy positions to facilitate a renewed attack. Due to the intensity of the enemy fire and heavy casualties to the command group, including the company commander, the attack stopped and the friendly troops became disorganized. Although wounded by mortar fragments, Capt. Jacobs assumed command of the allied company, ordered a withdrawal from the exposed position and established a defensive perimeter. Despite profuse bleeding from head wounds which impaired his vision, Capt. Jacobs, with complete disregard for his safety, returned under intense fire to evacuate a seriously wounded advisor to the safety of a wooded area where he administered lifesaving first aid. He then returned through heavy automatic weapons fire to evacuate the wounded company commander. Capt. Jacobs made repeated trips across the fire-swept open rice paddies evacuating wounded and their weapons. On 3 separate occasions, Capt. Jacobs contacted and drove off Viet Cong squads who were searching for allied wounded and weapons, single-handedly killing 3 and wounding several others. His gallant actions and extraordinary heroism saved the lives of 1 U.S. advisor and 13 allied soldiers. Through his effort the allied company was restored to an effective fighting unit and prevented defeat of the friendly forces by a strong and determined enemy. Capt. Jacobs, by his gallantry and bravery in action in the highest traditions of the military service, has reflected great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

The one more thing? I don’t think Jack will be upset if I mention this. As you picture him dodging bullets to repeatedly carry other men across his back, you need to have the full picture. I believe I may be generous in estimating Jack Jacobs’ height at about 5’8″. That’s Colonel Jack Jacobs, thank you. And 5’8″ goes a long way in the clutch. 
As ever, Jack, thank you.


  1. jwin214

    GREAT story! Thanks, Keith Olbermann.
    And I’m glad you didn’t listen to the commenter from a few days ago who asked you to stop relating to your stories. Good grief. The whole point of a story is how one relates to it, and I think it adds something when the storyteller does that personally.
    Oh, one more thing…(ducking and running)…Go A’s. πŸ˜‰


    @jwin214 I have to agree. Keith, you have a real gift with words. I keep hoping you’ll write about your life someday – I have a feeling you would be able to keep us spellbound. Thanks for a brilliant post.


    Could someone please pass me the tissues? At the moment, my tear ducts seem to be connected to my bladder.
    I discovered a few years back that one of my mom’s brothers, my Uncle Robert, was part of the Bataan Death March in Luzon, Philippine Islands during WWII, and became a POW. Apparently, that was at the time when Douglas MacArthur was living on Corregidor and decided to decamp with his wife and small child. My uncle survived his time as a POW, but returned home a mere shell of his former self and refused to talk about the horrors of his experience with anyone, least of all his mother, my grandmother. He was long dead before I was even a twinkle in my parents’ eyes, having died prematurely of health problems brought on by the war. Whenever my mom talks about her brother, it’s clear that he also died from those things that wouldn’t show up on a doctor’s chart: a broken heart and unfulfilled dreams. I’d like to believe that my Uncle Bob was a huge baseball fan. I’ll never know.
    I’ll be first to admit that I don’t always think about the men/women who serve this country, until a major holiday rolls around. No, I’m not that clueless; I’m like a lot of people, who are subsumed by the details and minutiae of everyday living. Sometimes it takes a reminder for me to think about the sacrifices and hardships that those who came before me made, in order that I can come onto this blog and shoot off my big mouth and speak my mind without fear, and a lot of other freedoms I take for granted.
    So, I’m thankful for people like Mr. Jacobs and my Uncle Robert who gave of themselves in ways that I’m pretty sure I’ll never be called upon to do. And even that doesn’t seem nearly good enough. But it’s the best that I can do . . .

  4. jeterandiborn62674

    That was a nice moment with Kevin Burkhardt that I actually saw on TV. Jack Jacobs is like Joe Morgan– proof that height does not determine greatness. In a related (thought far less important) matter– it appears to me there’s really bad chemistry between Kevin Burkhardt and the guys in the booth, especially SNY play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen. It’s kind of like Kevin wants to be invited to the party (Gary, Ron, Keith– the other Keith) but doesn’t make the grade. Or like Gary thinks Kevin wants to take his job. I don’t see this with other “sideline” reporters, like Kimberly Jones on YES. It actually gets kind of uncomfortable watching the SNY guys interact with him. Anyway, Kevin says he doesn’t get starstruck but he was with Jack Jacobs– quite honestly, I wonder if I would get a bigger thrill meeting a Medal of Honor recipient or a Hall of Famer, or Keith Olbermann.


    So if there is no crying in baseball, will the Beck U. Crybabies have to change there name? And would such a name change affect their cheerleaders, the Palin Drones? There goes the rallying cry…we don’t know if we’re coming or going!


    Just a quick note – some of us out here understand that you’re a human being, like everyone else, and need a little relaxation once in a while. Some respect wouldn’t hurt either, would it? Some of us out here really do respect you, and wanted you to know that. We’ve got your back. Always. Thanks for everything, Keith. Have a great weekend, and I hope you get a chance to do something FUN. #ISupportKO πŸ™‚


    Keith, you sure get bagged on a lot. I leave that other site for a few hours, and all hell breaks loose.
    I wish I had something profound to say to you. I’ve certainly suffered my share of black eyes and bruises on this thing called the Internet. To be sure, it has its advantages, but it’s sometimes hard to communicate when you can’t hear the tone or inflection of someone’s voice, or see the expression on their face, or interpret their body language, or somehow divine the true meaning behind a few words typed on a screen, or know how old/young an
    audience is. These nuances of communication – that’s where the Internet falls short. But, the Internet is the present and the future, and we have to figure out how to navigate those things. I know you know that. I’m POSITIVE that I’ve stuck my high-heeled foot in my mouth with you many times on this blog and said things that I wish I hadn’t. We sometimes get lured into believing that we somehow know the person we’re addressing, when just the opposite is true. I get carried away which, ironically enough, is uncharacteristic. All I can do is admit that I’ve messed up, learn from it, hope that you’re a forgiving person, and move forward.
    BTW, I totally ?got? why you left TDK recently. I’m not a commenter there, but do enjoy visiting once in a while to see if anything that interests me is being discussed. Frankly, it’s none of my business, but I was admittedly disappointed when you reversed yourself and went back.
    I had to stay mad at you until I wasn’t mad anymore. πŸ™‚ I know you had your reasons, and that’s truly all that matters. Sounds like you did the right thing. Those folks need you. The artist presently known as Prince, on the other hand, claims that the Internet is ?over.?
    Keith, I’ll end here before I get your baseball fans upset and they come after me with torches and hounds!
    ashoein πŸ™‚

  8. mrlyngreen

    I want to know how the Rangers outmanuevered the Yankees to get Cliff Lee. I want to know what got into the A’s offense tonight and see if I can get the Cardinals to catch it. I want Javier Vasquez to throw a 96 mph fastball to Albert Pujols with the bases loaded in the World Series (okay that is a little much). I want the Phillies to get another walk off win against the Reds tomorrow. I want John Mozeliak to trade for a decent starting pitcher.

    You know, important stuff.

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