The Chilean mine rescue drama in October drew a worldwide audience of champions to the trapped miners cause - survival - and prayers for the success of the operation to free them from the chamber that, for nearly two months, threatened to become their tomb.
Among those inspired by the heroism of the miners, and their rescuers, were members of The American Legion National Executive Committee (NEC) who began their annual meeting just as the last of the miners was returned to freedom. Therefore, it was no surprise that NEC members enthusiastically endorsed a resolution - put forth by the Department of New York - to honor the miners and their saviors.
That resolution was recently presented in the form of a commemorative plaque to the Ambassador of Chile to the United States, Arturo Fermandois, by Daniel S. Wheeler, national adjutant of The American Legion and Peter S. Gaytan, executive director of the Legion's Washington office. The presentation was made during an informal, hour-long reception at the Chilean Embassy in D.C.
During the reception, the Legion staff and their host chatted about the histories of their countries, Latin and South American politics and, most specifically, the roles of military veterans and their caretakers in each society. In regards to the resolution, Ambassador Fermandois asked, "What inspired you (the Legion) about the rescue of the miners?"
"The American Legion is an organization of peace," replied Wheeler, "and we were inspired by the spirit of wonderful cooperation demonstrated by the governments of Chile and the United States, as well as the rescue workers from our countries and others. We thought it was important and fitting to recognize that."
The session ended with mutual invitations for further visits, extended talks about veterans' issues and, perhaps, an appearance by Ambassador Fermandois during the 2011 American Legion National Convention or Washington conference.
The presentation plaque contains the text of the NEC's Resolution No. 30: The American Legion Commends The Republic of Chile and reads, in part:
"WHEREAS, The resolve of the Chilean people has inspired the world as efforts to rescue 33 trapped miners unfold; and
"WHEREAS, The rescue of the 33 miners is a tribute to the determination of the miners, the Chilean government and its people; now, therefore be it
"RESOLVED... That the American Legion commends Chilean President Sebastian Pinera; Jaime Manalich, Minister of Health of the Republic of Chile; and the Chilean and American engineering and construction companies who played critical roles in this rescue effort; and the Chilean People for the steadfast determination and unity which exemplifies integrity and the human spirit."