#3. John Weir Foote: Action Chaplain!
In 1941, the Canadian army took part in the Dieppe Raid, the first major attempt to take troops across the English Channel. Cracked has covered how well the whole event went in general here, but let's focus more on the involvement of one individual, John Weir Foote, a Canadian chaplain who was badass before the shooting had even started.
Some people just can't turn it off.
Foote was not intended to take part in the raid, and when his commanding officer told him that he was going to sit this one out, Foote said that he'd have to be arrested to keep him away from the action, which means a bit more when you're speaking to someone with the power to arrest you. So he was assigned as a stretcher bearer.
During the Dieppe Raid, Foote pulled a Doss and helped carry 30 wounded soldiers to safety under fire, and provided them with morphine. During the retreat, Foote got a ride off the beach, which meant that he was being rescued from the Nazis, who weren't known for their powers of human empathy. But looking back at the surrendering soldiers, Doss changed his mind and disembarked, giving himself up.
"Can you take me to this Hitler fella? Maybe I can talk some sense into him."
He decided that the soldiers being taken to a Third Reich POW camp needed religious guidance more than a bunch of soldiers returning to base. Bear in mind, in August 1941, it was largely Great Britain against the Axis nations, and none of the great defeats that would eventually take the bad guys down had happened yet. So Foote was volunteering for an imprisonment that, as far he knew, could have been a life sentence. He did it anyway, because he thought that's where he was needed.
After three years' imprisonment with one serious escape attempt, Foote was released. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest honor Her Majesty's Armies awarded. It was still way less than the honor he'd already provided them by joining.
#2. Bayard Rustin Shows Martin Luther King Jr. How It's Done
Being a gay black Quaker in 1950s America is kind of like rolling a natural 1 through every step of your character creation process. Pretty much every interaction you have with mainstream culture is going to involve people passive-aggressively trying to murder you, as well as just straight-up aggressively trying to murder you.
"I also don't mind pressing '1' for English."
Rustin became a prominent member of the American civil rights movement. His most far-reaching impact was probably that time he convinced Martin Luther King Jr. (who at that point was using guns to defend his home and family) to try out this whole "nonviolence" thing, which you may remember as the defining attribute of King's movement. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the 1963 march on Washington (the huge attendance of which is credited to Rustin's organization), nonviolence was arguably the key to the movement's eventual success.
But this article isn't about ideological influence, it's about badassness, and Rustin's most incredible moment was a lot more personal. During a Korean War protest, Rustin found himself being savagely beaten by a stranger with a stick. Rustin's response was to grab another stick and offer it to his attacker, asking him if he wanted to beat him with that one, too.
"Some people turn the other other cheek. I slap it."
Although this is oddly similar to the end of Casino Royale, when Bond mocks Le Chiffre by telling him that he's about to "die scratching my balls," Rustin's version is objectively more badass just because it freaking worked: Right after this, his attacker threw both sticks down and walked away.
If you're wondering why you've never heard of this guy ... well, frankly, so were we, although some people suggested that it's because he was openly gay, being described as having "never heard there was a closet." In 1963.
When you kick this much ass, you don't need to hear anything.
#1. Aki Ra Saves Countless Lives the Hard Way
Aki Ra was kidnapped from his family at the age of 5 (roughly -- Ra is unsure of his precise age) by the Khmer Rouge, a genocidal paramilitary group in Cambodia. He was given mine-planting duty, because a child's small hands are more suited to the delicate work of planting murder-bombs, and we really hope that's the most depressing sentence we have to write this week. What sounds like objectively the worst childhood in history continued until 1983, when Ra was captured by the Vietnamese Army, who quickly ... made him do exactly the same thing, but for them. Just file that away in your head to be remembered the next time you feel disappointed by literally anything.
It wasn't until 1992, when the U.N. came to Cambodia, that Ra saw a chance to undo the damage he'd been forced to do as a kid. Working with the U.N. bomb defusers, Ra began digging up the old mines that he had planted -- and continued doing so after the U.N. left two years later, declaring a job well done. This will become hilarious in a second.
The places you can find these mines include villages and farmland that the owners are eager to reclaim and start growing food on but can't because mines play hell on the soil aeration and also blow you the fuck up. Deminers like Aki Ra play an important role because they make land habitable again, but it's tough work: There's an estimated 4 to 6 million unexploded mines in Cambodia. And "shifting" mines is a tough, multi-person job: The most successful deminers employ 1,000 people and can still only remove about 3,000 landmines per month.
Unless, of course, you know them intimately, like Aki Ra, who has removed over 50,000 mines all by himself and without the approved U.N. equipment. He was digging up mines with a knife and his bare hands, and it wasn't until 2005 that Ra went to Britain to actually get trained to do the thing he'd been doing since he was a little kid. Basically, he got around to fulfilling safety regulations when there was a lull in his daily life-saving.
A Perfect Soldier
Between saving lives by being in constant mortal peril and the ensuing sexual exhaustion, who has the time?
Now, not only does he continue to clear mines as his full-time job, but he runs a museum that educates people about the still existing mines while housing homeless children, many of whom have been injured by the same mines that Ra is working every day to remove. So, yeah, thanks for making us feel shitty about our own accomplishments there, Ra.
J.F. Sargent is a workshop moderator for Cracked. You can follow him on Twitter and read his Tumblr blog. Dustin Koski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. But be careful. He bites every fourth time he's contacted.
For more soldiers who need their own movies, check out 5 Real Life Soldiers Who Make Rambo Look Like a Pussy and 5 Of the Most Badass Soldiers Ever (Happened to be Dogs).
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 3 Creepiest Facts About the Real Santa Claus.