Is Ephrata Middle School teacher Gary Weddle a patriot or a pinhead for not shaving until Osama bin Laden’s capture?
That’s the question asked by Bill O’Reilly on his Fox News program The O’Reilly Factor Tuesday night.
Weddle stopped shaving on Sept 11, 2001, after the terror attack that killed nearly 3,000 people.
“Everyday I’m reminded that there’s terrible tragedies in the world and this isn’t the first and it won’t be the last,” Weddle told KREM 2 News in 2003.
Dan Wheat wrote at the Wenatchee World that Weddle cried when he first received word that bin Laden had been killed:
“I spent my first five minutes crying and then I couldn’t get it off fast enough,” said Gary Weddle, 50, who lives in East Wenatchee and teaches middle school science in Ephrata.
In a telephone interview with the Spokane Conservative Examiner Tuesday evening, Weddle said he grew the beard to remind himself of what happened on September 11, 2001. He had hoped others would follow in his footsteps as a show of solidarity with the victims of 9/11.
Weddle said he was “delighted” that O’Reilly would mention his action on his nightly cable program. O’Reilly noted that Weddle’s beard resembled bin Laden’s, something Weddle himself also noticed. But he did learn one thing from his experience – bin Laden cheated by using dark dye, and that gave him “great satisfaction.”
“It told me that bin Laden was not comfortable with who he was.”
As for being clean shaven after nearly a decade, Weddle says he “feels ten years younger,” and his family is very happy – and in a bit of a shock – to see it gone.
For a while, Weddle thought he might be buried with the beard, and has mixed emotions over seeing it gone.
“The beard almost represented the dead and wounded and it’s hard to say goodbye,” he said.
As for bin Laden’s death, Weddle said he was greatly relieved, but his relief was bittersweet.
“It’s not bringing anyone back,” he said, although he was elated to see solidarity in the street celebrations Sunday night.
KREM-2 reported that Ephrata Middle School principal Jill Palmquist recognized him Monday with a speech that spoke of his dedication, faith and patriotism:
Ephrata Middle School would like to take a few moments today to honor and recognize a very unique individual who is among us on a daily basis.
On September 11th 2001, Gary Weddle came to school and told his science students that in support of the United States Military and for the freedoms that America stands for, he would not shave until Osama Bin Laden was captured or killed.
Osama Bin Laden was the master mind responsible for the hijacking of two jet liners striking the Twin Towers in New York City, one jet crashing into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and another D.C. bound jet which crashed into a field in Shanksville Pennsylvania. In all, over 3,000 innocent lives were lost, tens of thousands of relatives and friends still mourn the loss of their loved ones and we have been engaged in the War on Terror.
For 3,454 days Mr. Weddle kept his word, faithful and true. He endured ridicule, jokes and no doubt people telling him that his was a lost cause. On top of that he watched daily news reports that cast doubt whether Osama Bin Laden was even still alive, or if dead his body would never be recovered. In which case, to be true to his word Mr. Weddle would have to never shave again for the rest of his life.
Mr. Weddle has taught us all an important lesson in faith, patriotism and endurance. Would any of us have put ourselves on the line in such a way? It is likely no one else in the entire world had taken such a vow.
Yesterday, May 1st, it was announced that Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan.
Mr. Weddle, we are truly honored and humbled by your example and extremely privileged to know you. The life lasting impact the commitment to your vow has had on over 2,000 students in the last ten years is more than a teacher could even begin imagine. As of yesterday Facebook has come alive as your former students excitedly rejoice in the fact that you can now shave! It might be added that our current population of students was aged two and three when you made your vow. They are the ones to see what so many of them wanted to witness.
Thank you for your dedication, steadfastness and determination to follow through. You are among the most dedicated, faithful and patriotic Americans we will ever have the privilege of saying that we knew.
Although you did not do this for personal glory, you can not escape the fact that we admire your dedication to our country and greatly respect you.
You are our HERO and we salute you!
Those who wish may visit Bill O’Reilly’s web site at billoreilly.com to cast their vote for Gary Weddle, a steadfast patriot who did his part to help those around him remember what happened on September 11, 2001.
Update – On Wednesday, May 4, O’Reilly announced that of all those who voted, 87 percent said Weddle was a patriot for his action.
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