“By Honor Bound” is the incredible tale of two Navy SEALs, Mike Thornton and Tommy Norris, who received the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions during the Vietnam War. It is the only instance in which one soldier earned the prestigious award in a combat action for saving the life of another recipient.
The story is told by Dick Couch, a prolific author and former Navy SEAL himself, who bridges two very different versions of the same story: From one man actively engaged in a firefight and another coordinating indirect fire.
Couch, who lives in Central Idaho, seamlessly interweaves historical lessons and interviews from those who witnessed these events to piece together this one-of-a-kind story of how Thornton earned the Medal of Honor for saving the life of Norris, who had himself received the medal six months earlier.
The story begins in spring 1972, when Norris was awarded the medal for the rescue of two American airmen who had been shot down within enemy territory in Vietnam. Six months later, while on a reconnaissance mission behind enemy lines, Norris was shot in the head and believed dead. At the risk of his own life, Thornton braved enemy fire to retrieve his wounded compatriot, carrying him for hours until support arrived.
The book maintains its momentum even through the final section, which details Norris’ and Thornton’s lives after the war and their subsequent adventures; Thornton stayed on with the Navy and retired after 23 years while Norris became a special agent with the FBI.
By the end of the story, readers will be asking themselves the same question Dick Couch has been asking since interviewing these American heroes: “So, are these two heroes brave men who faced down danger and physical risk to do what they did? Were they given the gift of valor? Or were they simply born fearless?”
Though much has been written about this account, Couch takes the reader into the hearts and minds of these two men with depth and detail because the stories were told directly to him by Norris and Thornton. His own experience as a SEAL veteran of the Vietnam War helps him to present the information in a way that will engross everyone, from military experts to readers simply looking to be thrilled.
Lindsay Dwyer is a reference library at Boise State University’s Albertsons Library.