For nearly two decades, Tony Mendez said nothing about his creative role in freeing six American diplomats from the death trap of revolutionary Iran.
Mendez had been working as a tool designer for Martin Marietta in the 1960s, when he answered a nondescript ad for a graphic artist. The ad had been placed by the Central Intelligence Agency, which put Mendez to work in the field of artistic cloak and dagger, crafting fake documents and fashioning disguises. Eventually these duties took him to the Middle East and into history.
When the Iranian mission was declassified in the late 1990s, Mendez spoke about the harrowing experience to Herald-Mail reporter Terry Talbert. His story in time became the movie “Argo,” which last week won the Academy Award for best picture.
We congratulate Mendez, now an artist in South County, who for the past year has been living in a whirlwind as only Hollywood can whirl it. It’s quite a trophy for the Mendez family and some positive press for Washington County.
We also take this time to recognize America’s undercover heroes, some of whom, like Mendez, eventually will have their stories told, some of whom will not.
We might never know the number of enemy plots against our nation that have been foiled by clandestine operatives. Many serve in anonymity at great risk to themselves, knowing that their work and sacrifice can never be fully recognized.
They might never get the glory they deserve, and must be content to know they served their country in a crucial and silent way.
We know you are out there, although we do not know your names. Thankfully, we do know the name of Tony Mendez, so to him we give our gratitude. And we give our gratitude to you, too, whoever you are.