Originally Published: June 3, 2012 9:15 p.m.
How would you define a hero? Since Memorial Day last week, there has been a lot of discussion, discourse and headlines about the term "Fallen Heroes." The commentator on MSNBC who said that maybe not all of the fallen should be called heroes has been roundly criticized and many talk shows and newspapers have entered the fray with a tsunami of opinions on exactly how we should label our soldiers who die in battle.
The major newspapers and op-ed pieces have gone on overdrive describing what wars are "worthy" of American sacrifice, and what wars were a big waste of time. I am not a historian, scholar or politician, so I cannot comment on the worthiness of wars. However, as a citizen of this free country, I will say that all sacrifices are worthy and no one dies in vain. Plus, as a writer, and I can say that hero seems like a fine term to describe our soldiers who die in the line of duty.
Do we really want to go down the slippery slope of placing different human values on whether soldiers die in heroic action as opposed to simply being killed by the enemy? I hope and pray not. A society that reduces the ultimate sacrifice to what happened in battle as a benchmark for the term hero is running the risk of believing that their brave and young soldiers are expendable. We do want to know how a soldier dies . . if it was because of an IED, friendly fire or taking a bullet for his team. But then we must be careful not to imply, as a country, that one sort of death is better or more worthy than another.
Let us not forget Vietnam, when our national disdain for the war transferred to disrespect for our military. Those young kids were plucked right out of high school, sent to a cruel mess of a war, many not wanting to be there, but doing their duty for our fine country. We have learned many lessons since Vietnam - mostly that our military deserves our utmost respect and honor. It would be a shame to take a step backwards, by publically debating why the word hero might only justify more war or does not accurately describe the fallen. Hey, this is not the time, while there are families planning funerals and placing wreaths on graves, which look like small, round life preservers that have arrived much too late.
My father fought in World War II. My husband was in the Air Force in Vietnam. Are we safer today because of World War II? I would say, absolutely. Are we, as a country, better off because of Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq or Afghanistan? I don't know. But this I do know that every single veteran, member of the armed services and fallen hero did something that we better be thankful for - unselfish service to our country. And maybe they did more for our nation than we should have ever asked.
Imagine marching off to the unknown, doing things that you don't necessarily want to do, ending up in grave danger, having your life span out in front of you, with all the hopes and dreams, while seeing, doing and experiencing the unthinkable. From the confused jungles of Vietnam, to the surprise attacks of IEDs, to the hot desert of Afghanistan, soldiers go on treacherous missions, to face the ultimate risks, for wars they did not start or might not even understand! How do the troops do what they do?
The great leaders and thinkers in our country can evaluate and criticize the wars (that they declared or got us into). The members of our military carry out their missions with a sense of duty that should be applauded and commended every day. The discussion about "who is a hero" should be shelved for another moment, when our young men and women are at home and not in harm's way. Until that time comes, we have a lot of thanking to do.
I have a friend in Desert Hills who lost her son in Iraq on Mother's Day four years ago. At first, she could not be consoled, she could not stop crying, she could not go on with daily life. Her brave, young son died in an ambush. And that was the end. No glory, no big gun battle, no possible explanation for the ending of a life so as full of hope and promise. I recall the minister at Michael's funeral saying, "That morning, this young soldier put on his uniform, fulfilled his assignment, protected the freedoms of each of us, advanced the cause of democracy, carried out the mission of his commanders for this great nation, without question or hesitation, and in doing so, he entered the kingdom of heaven. He is a true hero."
Well, Dear Readers, I believe in heroes. And . . . I know I am not alone. For all those who serve, we salute you. Let's fly our flags!
Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor who lives in Skull Valley. Have a comment or a story? Email Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org.