It is Memorial Day in America. Today we mourn and celebrate the lives lost in war while in service to our country. The word “Hero” has become overused in our colloquial culture. Teachers who help poor children learn are not heroes. Fathers are not heroes to daughters. A person pulled from a burning building was not saved by a hero. A Hero has a specific meaning and — I argue today of all days — a true Hero is a soldier who donates a bit of their body fighting on foreign soil. Some leave a leg. Some leave an arm. Others leave their hearts.
Heroes are not born. Heroes are not made. Heroes are constructed only in the terms of what bits of their bodies they leave behind.
Heroes do not seek recognition. Heroes do not want fame. Heroes know the price paid for the label was much too steep for earning any medal.
The True Hero knows any regular person would never want to pay the going price for Heroism because what you lose stings and hurts and it haunts you like a phantom for the rest of your life.
That’s why we must be careful where and how we put our people in jeopardy. We cannot ask Heroes to serve an ideal or a perhaps or as minions for personal revenge or political cowardice.
Heroes are forged in the united fight between Right and Wrong and in the war blood will drain and bodies will be shed and we, as a nation of cogent people, must all agree together the loss of human treasure is worth the Heroic effort in the end — and there must always be a winnable end before the sacrifice begins.
We all know the cruelty of madness. We understand how evil can corrupt the minds of the young. We are aware of the perils of death waged against a life of freedom. We only need to peel back recent memories to be bluntly reminded of other Heroes in other lands who felt called to the altar of Blood and Honor etched in the blade of a knife.
On Memorial Day, let’s come together and realize the danger to democracy when an entire generation of soldiers return to the Homeland wounded — and betrayed by those they believed — and are left to wonder in lonesome moments how they became overused Heroes out of the hot depths of the human lie and the shallow coldness of a political shilly-shallying that forever tarnished a nation’s honor.
I would add to your excellent article that the bit of body left behind by some heroes is their heart, because they are forever changed by their experiences of war– especially those who see their fellow soldiers wounded and dying in combat.
You make a very good point that heroes do not seek recognition. How often I have read interviews with war veterans in the newspaper who were reluctant to discuss their heroic deeds, or the war in general.
I remember seeing Jessica Lynch on television a few weeks ago discussing what really happened and, although the reporters tried to draw her out, she would not be moved. She simply stood there and refused to be called a hero. In doing so, I believe she became one. Her life was totally changed by the political sabotage that was levied upon her.
Hi Donna —
The last sentence in the second paragraph of my article mentions hearts.
Jessica Lynch went along with the lie. She didn’t dispute it. Her silence was cowardly. She only confessed the truth of the lie she helped perpetuate when she had a book to sell.
Doesn’t risking your life make you a hero? If you pull someone from a burning building you’re a hero.
I think those people are brave, but not heroes, arin.
9/11? The people who died in the buildings? The rescuers? Not heros?
In the frame of today’s argument, arin — not heroes. They are brave and honorable and sacrificing — but a hero is only made by a soldier in combat on foreign soil.
That’s a hard definition.
Yes, you did indeed mention hearts. Sorry for the oversight.
I’m not sure about Jessica. Do you think her book would sell more copies if she continued to perpetuate the lie? Do you not give her any credit for finally “coming clean”?
Words should mean something. “Everyday heroes” and “Common heroes” — are colloquial forms of trying to give greater importance to someone or some event than is really earned.
To redact the meaning of a Hero back on itself to indicate something narrow and specific in achievement and honor is to bring back the special meaning of the word in context.
I would give Jessica Lynch more credit if she came clean if she wasn’t selling a book; I’d give her even more credit if, at the time she was forced into the hero role, that she rejected it as loudly as she is rejecting it now to make money.
If she had stood up and proclaimed the truth — “Saving Private Lynch” would never have become a propaganda movie:
Yes, I can see why you would conclude Jessica’s motivation for telling the truth is to promote her book. If that is true, then she has to live with the consequences of being used by the media, then and now, while her fellow soldiers were falling in Iraq.
If that is not true, and she really does want to finally speak the truth to set the record straight, maybe there is a glimmer of character left in her. But it is a hard sell, I admit, since she destroyed her credibility with her initial complaisance.
I will at this time abandon my conclusion she was a hero. You have persuaded me!
Hi Donna —
If Jessica were to give all the money she made from her book and her movie and any other paid interviews/events to a fund to take care of those left behind in the death of national heroes, I would have much more respect for her.
Right now, she’s just George Tenet in a uniform.
We must not forget the contractors who are serving our country overseas — some who are performing hazardous duties such as protecting government officials and doing other duties to allow military personnel to concentrate on other matters.
Said Donna Zovko of her son Jerry — a contractor who was working for Blackwater USA — who was killed in Fallujah: “(H)e was needed there and the skills that he learned in the military were needed and he went.”
I don’t think those who choose to go to Iraq to make a lot of money in the private sector deserve hero status. I think of them as more mercenary than hero.
Contractors can choose to go or not. Soldiers have no option but to follow orders.
It’s sad to see the exploitation in the name of over used patriotism.
Well said, Katha! Patriotism is, I believe, a very dangerous thing beyond its original core ideal.
i guess what you’re saying does fit in nicely with the ways of the world. where ‘hero’ is just another consumer-driven construct, like ‘celebrity’.
the consumer in the case of the hero being the nation-state. and concepts like patriotism, and its handmaiden nationalism, being essential tools in forming the value systems of young individuals who can then be called on to give their lives for the country without questioning – and here lies the rub – the cause or the motive or the beneficiaries.
does this make sense?
Hi Dananjay —
Yes, what you are arguing makes perfect sense to me. Hero worship is vital to the foundation of nation/state because the glory is in the “Victory” and not the effort.
yes, victory, adequately clothed in as many noble causes as one can scrounge up.
gives a new meaning to ‘false cause’. or does it? 🙂
Absolutely right, Dananjay!
It’s all a game requiring respect and adoration in order to get into the field of play.