“Nobody who knew me as a young man would have picked me to become a war hero. I wouldn’t have," writes Medal of Honor recipient Allen J. Lynch, in his new memoir, ZERO TO HERO: From Bullied Kid to Warrior (Pritzker Military Museum & Library, March 2019).
Lynch is a survivor of bullying, and he continues to cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) resulting from his service in Vietnam. In the book, written with Richard Ernsberger, Jr., he passes along life lessons learned during his bullied childhood and rudderless youth, and explains how he coped with the horror of war and the PTSD that ensued.
“I’m proof that life can be turned in a positive direction,” Lynch writes. “Being bullied in school made me nothing more or less than a survivor. It gave me an inner strength that got me through life-or-death combat situations and later helped me battle PTSD for more than forty years. I persevered. Bad things happen in life—they are often unavoidable. It is how you deal with them that matters.”
The act that earned Lynch his distinction occurred during the two-week Battle of Tam Quan, near the village of My An in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. It was later rated 15th of the 20 deadliest battles in the war.
For the better part of December 15, 1967, he lay hidden in a ditch in “no man’s land,” only several feet from enemy troops, protecting and attempting to rescue two wounded comrades. He had opportunities to escape, but he did not. And, eventually, he got the men to safety and they all survived.
“The Medal of Honor represents something greater than myself,” says Lynch. “It isn’t really mine, in fact: I have a duty to wear it to represent all American Service Members, especially those killed in action, along with all those who have never been recognized for their heroism. The Medal of Honor represents selfless service, sacrifice, honor, and duty: It is a symbol of the best of America. And it has given me a sense of mission, of involvement, and, most importantly, a deep sense of my responsibility to reflect its values, every day.”