Many of us in America have a special place in our hearts for the men and women of our Armed Forces. Historians agree that if it were not for the intervention of America in WW II much of the world as we know it today would be speaking German and Japanese. Tom Brokaw wrote a book about the men and women who lived and fought through that period and calls them "The Greatest Generation". But are they heroes?
Pop culture "heroes" like Sly Stallone, Arnold Scwarzenegger and Bruce Willis have created an on screen image of superhuman feats and bravery beyond reason. If that's going to be our defining criteria for heroism, we might have set the bar unrealistically high. There are heroes all around us and while they appear ordinary in every respect, they live each day challenging adversity and fear. Heroes rarely think of themselves as such and so, share humility as a common trait. What, then separates the men and women of the Armed Forces from our everyday heroes?
A piece by Amy Rutledge on Chicago's WGNTV.com describes a welcome home celebration for a Lance Corporal recently returned from Afghanistan at Fitz's Pub in Elmhurst,IL where members of the Warriors' Watch Riders descended upon the unsuspecting Marine in an enthusiastic show of support and gratitude. It would be reasonable to ask why these men and women took time out of their day and traveled as much as an hour or more just to shake our hero's hand. That would be a reasonable question. Click here to read Rutledge's article
The first comment following aforementioned article was posted by someone called Tlaloc who said, "So besides 2 tours, what's so special about this guy? Why is he a hero? Just sayin."
I guess that's a fair question, but it reminds me of the Four Questions traditionally asked at the Seder table during the Jewish celebration of Passover. The questions asked by each of four sons inquire about Passover traditions. The Wicked Son asks, "What does all this mean to YOU?" In phrasing his question in that way, he separates himself from the group, as if none of the proceedings has any relevance to him.
Tlaloc ends his comment with the ubiquitous, "Just sayin", which is superfluous since we can obviously see that it was just said and by whom it was said. "Just sayin" generally means "I'm trying to make a point but I don't want it to seem like I'm trying to make a point". It's a bit cowardly, but it seems to be a part of our deteriorating mesh of linguistic skills.
Men and women who volunteer to serve their country in any of the various branches of the Armed Forces sign a contract with that branch; Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, etc. The clause implied in each of those contracts but appearing nowhere in any of them is clearly understood by every recruit: Your service to your country may include capture, torture, severe maiming and possible death. That, Tlaloc is why we call them heroes. 2 tours or no tours.
I have no way of knowing Tlaloc's deal. He or she may never have served and doesn't know what all the fuss is about. To that I would say that the fuss, Tlaloc is about you being able to do whatever it is you do in a land of freedom and opportunity. It doesn't matter if you agree with any specific war or the legitimacy of war as foreign policy. It is America's ability to project military strength across the globe that keeps invaders from our shores.
Perhaps Tlaloc served and never got the welcome home he or she saw on TV. Perhaps he or she was deployed 5 or 10 times and isn't impressed by a measly 2 tours. If that's the case, Tlaloc it may offer you some consolation that you, too are regarded as a hero in the minds and hearts of many grateful Americans. Whatever your story, remember that our Lance Corporal with 2 tours under his belt voluntarily put his life on the line so that you and I can enjoy whatever it is that we are able to make of the American dream. I'm just sayin'.