An Excellent Spirit is indebted to our dear friend, Michael Patrick for his Facebook post on the death of little known actor Charles Durning in New York on Christmas Eve. We have watched Charles Durning as a supporting and character actor in movies, TV shows and features for years. It is not so much that we liked or lionized the man in life. He was a good actor and entertained his audiences well. His role as the corrupt, evil Lt. William Snyder in The Sting (1973) was memorable.
He was twice nominated for Academy Awards (Oscars) for Best Supporting actor. His Filmography is here. It is the part of his life that Durning hardly ever talked about that drew our attention and prayers. It is what we learned after his death that is worthy of mention here. Charles Durning was an American hero long before he was an actor. He was a survivor of places most of us do not even know. Omaha Beach on D-Day. The Battle of the Bulge. Malmedy. Most Americans do not know or remember such places. Heroes do. We are also indebted to Conservative Patriots of America, https://www.facebook.com/ConservativePatriotsofAmerica who commemorated his death:
“America & History loses another Hero — A true American Hero, actor Charles Durning, died this Christmas Eve, Dec 24, at the age of 89. Durning, who became one of Hollywood’s top character actors in films like “The Sting, Tootsie, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Dog Day Afternoon, and O Brother Where Art Thou?,” enlisted in the US Army during WWII and served with the 398th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Army Support Troops and 386th Anti-aircraft Artillery. He was in the first wave of troops to land on Omaha Beach on D-Day and his unit’s lone survivor of a machine-gun ambush, was shot in the hip a few days later and was wounded by a German landmine on June 15. After a brief recovery he was at the Battle of the Bulge, where he was wounded again by a bayonet and was the only member of his patrol who survived the Battle. Durning was also one of he few to survive the Dec 16 Malmedy Massacre. During his time in service, he was awarded a Silver Star for valor and three Purple Hearts and spent months in hospitals being treated for physical and psychological trauma. Durning’s father was a wounded veteran who died when Charles was 12 due to the effects of mustard gas exposure in WWI. His mother, Louise, worked as a laundress at the United States Military Academy at West Point. We thank and honor Durning and his family for his service and thank him for the entertainment he has provided to us through the years, may he rest in peace.”
Durning was raised Roman Catholic in upstate New York, one of ten children. At 21, in 1944, he was drafted into the Army. He was in the “first wave” of US soldiers to hit Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6th, 1944 as a 21 year old. It is hard to imagine what he felt from our perspective. Durning was a 21 year old from upstate NY on a beach in Normandy France in perhaps the fiercest battle in history all around him, men and boys dying everywhere he looked and a cliff to climb at the top of which were German batteries reigning death down upon them. Yet Charles Durning survived and went on to be wounded three times for which he received three Purple Heart medals and was the recipient of both the Bronze Star for bravery and the Silver Star for valor during his service. Durning was the most decorated veteran of World War II still alive until his death on December 24, 2012.
God’s Word has little to say about heroes. God, the Father, our Creator, was so much more than a hero. His Son, Jesus, the Christ, our Savior, certainly displayed all of the characteristics of a hero and much more, living a sinless life as a man and dying on a Cross to save us from death. The patriarchs, the kings, the prophets and others likewise displayed courageous traits and character. They are Biblical examples to us of heroism. Today’s real heroes are the men and women who live their lives for God, who seek God’s Word and understanding of the Word and who knows, thereby, what he or she should do to glorify God and do his or her part to build God’s Kingdom from within the self outward to a sin sick, dying world.
Charles Durning was such a man and hero. An Excellent Spirit strongly recommends that our readers seek to understand from God how such a man could live his 89 years and accomplish quietly, without fanfare or excessive notoriety, all that Charles Durning did. We thank God for him and for millions of men and women like him. Let us know what you think. We pray that God bless America with more Charles Durnings. Men and women like Sean Smith (ASAF), Glen Doherty (US Navy SEAL), Tyrone Woods (US Navy SEAL) and Ambassador Chris Stevens.
George Santayana, the Spanish and American philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist made famous the quote of Edmund Burke “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” When we remember Charles Durning, we also remember Smith, Doherty, Woods and Stevens and perhaps we remember enough not to repeat the tragedies of Benghazi, D-Day and many more. We shall certainly see, America. God bless America and the families of Charles Durning and the Benghazi Martyrs.