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Ordinary American Heroes Take the Wheel: Brian Echevarria Takes on CRT as John Kissinger did Yellow Fever

Posted on Sunday, February 20, 2022
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AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel

brian echevarria
North Carolina father Brian Echevarria speaks to the Cabarrus County School Board on Feb. 14, 2022. (Video screenshot)

Brian Echevarria is biracial, multilingual, and multicultural. He doesn’t look much like my distant cousin John Kissinger but he reminds me of him in the deepest ways. Both men, separated in time by a century, were in the news this past week because of their heroism. Both men in their different ways represent the greatness of America—not found primarily in the credentialed elites but in ordinary citizens.

Echevarria, the GOP candidate for the 73rd District seat in North Carolina’s General Assembly, made the news because of a dynamite speech to his school board about what parents demand. Kissinger was in the news because the Congressional Gold Medal this Army private was awarded for his service in fighting yellow fever after the Spanish American War went on sale. One’s service was political while one’s was medical. While many people in the news don’t deserve to be, these two do because they represent what, humanly speaking, is the hope for our country: a citizenry ready to stand up, serve, and make sacrifices in whatever circumstances they find themselves.

You probably heard of Brian Echevarria. His viral speech just “might be,” as PJ Media’s Stephen Green (who embeds the video in his article) says, “the best three minutes you’ll spend all day.” It really is. Echevarria begins by thanking his local Cabarrus County school board for their service and applauding the end of mask policies in schools. He uses that to make a broader point: “What the masks showed us is the parents, the most powerful group of people in our country, they’re taking back the wheel.” Where he goes from there is to applaud the board for a non-discrimination resolution and explain why CRT (critical race theory) and transgender policies that would, among other things, pit girls against boys in swimming, soccer, and other sports are not what parents want. He wants to take back the wheel of education “from Washington” and “from Raleigh.”

In short, he wants local schools to have local and sane control. And he does not want his children to be taught that they are victims because of their “pecan-colored skin,” nor does he want white children to be taught that they are racists. A businessman, he points out that he works with people of all races and colors—and what he finds is that the racism is only coming “from the government and the media,” who are seeking to divide our country.

“If you believe in CRT … it means you look at your black neighbor and say they’re oppressed and you look at your white neighbor and say they’re evil — regardless of the experience you’ve had with them. We know that’s not true because we believe the lives we live.”

Given the viral success of Echevarria, perhaps it’s not fair to say he’s exercising bravery. But as anybody who stands up against the woke mob in public knows, he’s courting hatred with his all-American attack on the ideas that motivate so many in public life. It’s only a matter of time till some left-wing outlet starts dubbing him an “Uncle Tom” in the way the great Justice Clarence Thomas has been slandered for decades. Echevarria is a smart man who has no doubt counted the cost and figured out that there might be rough times ahead as well as great ones. But as a father, a business owner, and a citizen, he’s willing to take the risk.

That’s why Echevarria reminds me so much of my cousin John Kissinger, whom you probably haven’t heard of. His Congressional Gold Medal and other effects are currently being auctioned by the famous Blackwell’s Auction House. He too took a great risk that paid off in the life of our country and even of the world.

A Hoosier farm boy born in 1877, he was the first cousin of my great-grandmother (thus: my first cousin, three times removed) and the subject of family pride and lore. In December 1897 he had helped organize a division of the Indiana National Guard in Wabash County. In April 1898, that Guard unit was summoned to serve in the Spanish American War as part of the 157th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Before he was able to see any combat, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders finished the job at San Juan Hill, so after his discharge in November of that year, he enlisted in the U. S. Army, hoping to serve in the Philippines as part of a Cavalry unit. Due to a problem with his toes, that didn’t work out either. So, having desired to be a doctor when younger, he was placed in the Army Hospital Corps and sent to Cuba in January 1899.

It was here that this young man had his great opportunity in the year 1900. Stationed near Quemados de Mariano, a Havana suburb, the young orderly was put in charge of an operating room at the Columbia Barracks Post Hospital. Also stationed there were a trio of doctors: Dr. James Carroll, Dr. Jesse Lazear, and the legendary Dr. Major Walter Reed. This group was working on the Cuban doctor Carlos Finlay’s theory that the Aedes Aegypti mosquito transmitted yellow fever (or yellow jack, as it was popularly known) and were looking for volunteers to be bitten by mosquitoes that had themselves bitten victims of the fever to determine whether Finlay’s theory was correct and study the progression of the disease.

Kissinger overheard the group discussing this one night while on duty and decided the next day to volunteer to be infected—the first non-doctor to volunteer. What he had been told was that this assignment was one that would guarantee him two weeks of torture—if he survived. Survival was a 50-50 chance. Dr. Lazear himself was bitten by the mosquitoes and died. Kissinger was a smart young man who knew the risks and chose to do it anyway.

Being bitten by mosquitoes on November 20 and 23, 1900, these first two attempts had no result. The third exposure on December 5 did. When the disease came on him seven days later, he was wracked with pain, becoming a “maniac” during his fevers (as my family genealogy book puts it), and losing thirty pounds over the eight-day course of the illness.

After leaving the Army, he had various medical difficulties from his bout of yellow fever, most prominent among them a spinal disease called myelitis that caused a progressive paralysis. He traveled around and married a widow named Ida Johnson Jarvis when he was in Seattle. Around 1906 he lost the use of his legs below the knees and spent twelve years crawling, walking on his knees, or riding on a skateboard or in a wheelchair before he was able to walk again, assisted by crutches and then a cane. In 1918 he regained the ability to walk unassisted and, according to the family genealogists, “danced a jig.” But the problems with his health continued until his death in 1946.

One who had truly sacrificed, John Kissinger was not known for feeling sorry for himself or playing the martyr. Yellow Jack, a 1938 movie about his bravery, featured Robert Montgomery playing his part, but the moviemakers did not use Kissinger’s real name. No matter: he had received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1931, an award that Blackwell’s notes is “the highest civilian honor bestowed by the government, equal to the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but far less frequently awarded.” There have only been 173 awarded in history (versus 647 Medals of Honor and 3,500 Medals of Freedom). He and Ida (who had difficulties resulting from a serious car accident) had health and financial problems at times, but they kept their dignity and their spirits. Both known to “dress attractively.” She was “usually smiling,” my family genealogists say, while cousin John “always would greet every woman, young and old, with a kiss.”

An ordinary American, he nevertheless knew what he had done to end the scourge of yellow fever. Some sources indicate that Walter Reed learned more in watching John Kissinger’s eight-day saga than the doctors had learned about the disease in the previous eight years. Kissinger’s sacrifice proved that it was the mosquitoes that were responsible; they were eradicated and an advance was made on developing a vaccine for the illness. Reed later wrote that Kissinger’s “exhibition of moral courage has never been surpassed in the annals of the Army of the United States.”

We live in an age of credentialed elites. No doubt we need better elites than the current crop we have. But the success of a nation is in the Brian Echevarrias and John Kissingers—ordinary people who will put their reputations and even their lives on the line for the civic and physical health of our country. When they see problems, they don’t just wait for the government to solve the problem without them. They take the wheel themselves.

David P. Deavel is editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, co-director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and a visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He is the co-host of the Deep Down Things podcast.

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Bill T
Bill T
2 years ago

Unfortunately our woke teachers union are using racial division to brainwash all our youth to believe our country is a strictly bad and corrupt country. This same union took full advantage of a crisis and the collateral damage done to our youth will not be known for several years. Guaranteed it not a good or beneficial outcome for this generation of future American citizens. The parents are very aware of this and right now are demanding this divisive and dangerous false narrative to stop immediately. Obviously the Marxist leftist democrats were using the Covid mandates to implement a narrative that they wished they could have used decades ago but never were able to. WE THE PEOPLE are why our country exists and also our freedoms and opportunities are here because our founders sacrificed everything for our future by writing our constitution. If not for all our brave and great citizens of our country from the 1700 hundreds right till today ,there wouldn’t be any opportunities for any of us. God bless our country and all of our brave and determined citizens. Remember it’s THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ????????. Hopefully our leftist administration realizes that the people are what made this country great not them.

Dot
Dot
2 years ago

I listened to Brian’s speech and thank him for his courage to stand up and reiterate his belief, which a lot of us agree with, especially in these difficult times when the left goes to tremendous lengths to drown out the truth.

Rosalee Cavanaugh
Rosalee Cavanaugh
2 years ago

I saw the video as requested in the first few paragraphs. I amazed by his wonderful speech and clear facts but the article did not mention the 2 police officers who came into the room while he was talking. I guess the “board” summoned them in case this parent scared them. So sad at our public servants reaction to a well educated man. Maybe they believed in the CRT and made the correct response. USA wake-up!

MPCT24
MPCT24
2 years ago

Every child is entitled to a free and appropriate* education in their least restrictive environment. That’s basic civil rights law.
Anything that interferes with equal access to education violates that child’s basic civil rights. It can absolutely be argued that teaching children that one race oppressing another willfully and systemically creates a hostile environment that is discriminatory and prevents equal access to education.
But each and every parent has to sue their local schools individually. Turn those laws around and force equal application.

Larkenson
Larkenson
2 years ago

Our schools teach White students that they are immoral and contemptible if they don’t support the White Genocide that’s being carried out by massive third-world immigration and FORCED assimilation i.e diversity in EVERY White country and ONLY White countries.
Their teachers never tell them, “White self-hatred is SICK!!!“
Those teachers claim to be anti-racist. What they are is anti-White.
Anti-racist is just a code word for anti-White.

Walter
Walter
2 years ago

What a bunch of whiney, snowflake garbage.

Systemic racism is real, as are lgbtq people, too bad snowflakes. Schools should teach actual history and critical thinking skills, and teach kids it’s ok to be lgbtq.

Also, I pay taxes for the schools too, we all get a say in the curriculum, not just the most prudish parents. If snowflake parents can’t handle that, then fork over the money for private school tuition.

Donald Hanson
Donald Hanson
2 years ago

The reason behind CRT is fairly simply. It is a belief that the only way to take down our country is get the youth to believe we are unjust and have no right to be a country. Then they can swoop in with their socialist substitute and rule us. Make no mistake, the ultimate goal is not a free country but one ruled by the “right” kind of people. They don’t even really care about color, just power and the power to rule.

Charles Kinsella
Charles Kinsella
2 years ago

Can anyone name one school district in the United States where Critical Race Theory is a part of the K-12 curriculum?

Katharina and Pastor Kenneth Glenn Koons
Katharina and Pastor Kenneth Glenn Koons
2 years ago

As a former teacher and pastor, I agree with Lt. Gov. Patrick of TX. Any teacher, professor trying to brainwash our pupils in public schools and colleges should be fire on the spot. No coddling the communists or racists for that is exactly what it is.And electing Dems just makes the education horror in the US worse daily. In one yr., Joe and the Dems have made the US a 3rd world mess.

gkam
gkam
2 years ago

This is nonsense!
You are being suckered again by the same folks who want to take away your Social Security and healthcare.

Bill T
Bill T
2 years ago

Unfortunately our woke teachers union are using racial division to brainwash all our youth to believe our country is a strictly bad and corrupt country. This same union took full advantage of a crisis and the collateral damage done to our youth will not be known for several years. Guaranteed it not a good or beneficial outcome for this generation of future American citizens. The parents are very aware of this and right now are demanding this divisive and dangerous false narrative to stop immediately. Obviously the Marxist leftist democrats were using the Covid mandates to implement a narrative that they wished they could have used decades ago but never were able to. WE THE PEOPLE are why our country exists and also our freedoms and opportunities are here because our founders sacrificed everything for our future by writing our constitution. If not for all our brave and great citizens of our country from the 1700 hundreds right till today ,there wouldn’t be any opportunities for any of us. God bless our country and all of our brave and determined citizens. Remember it’s THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ????????. Hopefully our leftist administration realizes that the people are what made this country great not them.

Dot
Dot
2 years ago

I listened to Brian’s speech and thank him for his courage to stand up and reiterate his belief, which a lot of us agree with, especially in these difficult times when the left goes to tremendous lengths to drown out the truth.

Rosalee Cavanaugh
Rosalee Cavanaugh
2 years ago

I saw the video as requested in the first few paragraphs. I amazed by his wonderful speech and clear facts but the article did not mention the 2 police officers who came into the room while he was talking. I guess the “board” summoned them in case this parent scared them. So sad at our public servants reaction to a well educated man. Maybe they believed in the CRT and made the correct response. USA wake-up!

MPCT24
MPCT24
2 years ago

Every child is entitled to a free and appropriate* education in their least restrictive environment. That’s basic civil rights law.
Anything that interferes with equal access to education violates that child’s basic civil rights. It can absolutely be argued that teaching children that one race oppressing another willfully and systemically creates a hostile environment that is discriminatory and prevents equal access to education.
But each and every parent has to sue their local schools individually. Turn those laws around and force equal application.

Larkenson
Larkenson
2 years ago

Our schools teach White students that they are immoral and contemptible if they don’t support the White Genocide that’s being carried out by massive third-world immigration and FORCED assimilation i.e diversity in EVERY White country and ONLY White countries.
Their teachers never tell them, “White self-hatred is SICK!!!“
Those teachers claim to be anti-racist. What they are is anti-White.
Anti-racist is just a code word for anti-White.

Walter
Walter
2 years ago

What a bunch of whiney, snowflake garbage.

Systemic racism is real, as are lgbtq people, too bad snowflakes. Schools should teach actual history and critical thinking skills, and teach kids it’s ok to be lgbtq.

Also, I pay taxes for the schools too, we all get a say in the curriculum, not just the most prudish parents. If snowflake parents can’t handle that, then fork over the money for private school tuition.

Donald Hanson
Donald Hanson
2 years ago

The reason behind CRT is fairly simply. It is a belief that the only way to take down our country is get the youth to believe we are unjust and have no right to be a country. Then they can swoop in with their socialist substitute and rule us. Make no mistake, the ultimate goal is not a free country but one ruled by the “right” kind of people. They don’t even really care about color, just power and the power to rule.

Charles Kinsella
Charles Kinsella
2 years ago

Can anyone name one school district in the United States where Critical Race Theory is a part of the K-12 curriculum?

Katharina and Pastor Kenneth Glenn Koons
Katharina and Pastor Kenneth Glenn Koons
2 years ago

As a former teacher and pastor, I agree with Lt. Gov. Patrick of TX. Any teacher, professor trying to brainwash our pupils in public schools and colleges should be fire on the spot. No coddling the communists or racists for that is exactly what it is.And electing Dems just makes the education horror in the US worse daily. In one yr., Joe and the Dems have made the US a 3rd world mess.

gkam
gkam
2 years ago

This is nonsense!
You are being suckered again by the same folks who want to take away your Social Security and healthcare.

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