Hicksville Long Island’s Senator recently honored Ra The Rugged Man’s father for his service to the country during the Vietnam War. If you remember, Ra touched on his father’s wartime experiences in his song, Uncommon Valor.


Senator John J. Flanagan (2nd Senate District) recently had the opportunity to host and congratulate Stony Brook veteran John Andrew Thorburn for receiving the Conspicuous Service Cross for his service to the United States during Vietnam War. The Vietnam veteran served in both the Army and the Air Force during his seven years of service to the country.

The Conspicuous Service Cross is awarded by New York State to honor those veterans whose service to the country was of high standard and honorable demeanor. A recipient must have either received one of a select group of high military honors or have satisfied some other criteria to receive the honor.

As a member of the Army, Staff Sergeant Thorburn was a member of both the 101st Airborne Division as part of the Screaming Eagles and the Green Berets before transferring to the Air Force in June of 1968.

He continued serving in the military while a member of the Air Force until his retirement in 1970 due to injuries suffered while defending his country.

For his service, Staff Sergeant Thorburn was issued a number of medals including the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross (Oak Leaf Cluster), the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Air Force Crew Member Wings, the United States Army Good Conduct Medal and the United States Army Silver Wings.

“It is my honor and privilege to pay tribute to Mr. Thorburn and to say – on behalf of our state – thank you,” said Senator Flanagan. “Men and women like Mr. Thorburn are the true heroes of our nation and we must always remember their sacrifice. This medal is one small way that we as state can show that our appreciation and tell them that their efforts will never be forgotten.”

I came across some more information regarding Thorburn Sr.’s honorable service to his country:

Parrot enlisted in the Army in 1964. He went into 101st Airborne and then into Green Berets. He was stationed in Germany. He returned home after 3 years and then re-upped into the Air force. He volunteered for Vietnam. He was into fields and skies of Agent Orange. Parrot was a helicopter machine gunner. Their job was to save wounded soldiers in the field or rescue them from perilous conditions; many times it was while the fighting was still going on. It was “in your face combat”.

On December 8, 1969 a fellow comrade came up to Parrot. He was about to go on his last mission before heading home, a patrol needed to be rescued. He was very nervous; he felt he would not make it back. Parrot said, “Don’t worry; I’ll go for you, you go home”. His comrade was right. Parrot’s helicopter was shot down, but not before he distinguished himself by silencing the enemy and saving the patrol. He lay out there for 3 days in pain, in and out of consciousness before they found them. Their pilot was killed. When the rescue chopper landed, they looked at Parrot and he could hear someone say “this one’s dead”. Parrot had sustained major injuries. They picked him up and it was excruciating pain. His hip was forced further up in the socket from the impact of the crash and he had multiple injuries. John was in Saint Alban’s Naval Hospital for a year. He was in a full body cast for much of it and gradual steps until he could walk with a cane. He received his medals at the hospital; he received The Conspicuous Service Cross, Two Distinguished Flying Crosses With Oak Leaf Cluster and two Citations for Outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty, 4 Air Medals And of course a Purple Heart. He receives 100% disability.

John has had 6 children. Two, Dee Dee and Maxx were born severely handicapped. They were Microcephalic, (Small brain) they did not advance mentally past 8 months old. Dee Dee was born in 1982, she was only supposed to live a few days, but she did survive, the doctors then said she would never be a teenager, Dee Dee died last month, she was 25 years old. Max was born in 1991, he was worse than Dee Dee, he was also blind. 6 years ago Maxx died at the age of 10 unexpectedly. John and his wife never put their children into an institution, they cared for them. Their children could not speak or walk they could only laugh or cry…they laughed a lot. John’s daughter Lisa gave John his first grandchild, Vincent, in 1991. Vincent was born with a rare muscle disease. He died when he was not quite 6 months old.

Parrot, my brother was just diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in one lung and stage 3 in the other. Did I mention Agent Orange?

During last nights presidential debates, McCain and Obama both said they will take care of the country’s veterans. Lets hope so.

Ra The Rugged Man Questioned By TSS About The Details Of His Verse On Uncommon Valor