Last week while waiting for a class to start, I was doing my best not to overhear the conversation between a pair of video game enthusiasts. But the topic turned briefly from the fantasy world to current events, and one comment penetrated the barrier I was so desperately trying to maintain between them and my conscious attention. One of the gentlemen said he didn’t like that the news media call every soldier who has died in Iraq a hero. He claimed this overuse has reduced the meaning of the word to nothing.
Now I don’t consider myself to be particularly patriotic, but that comment very nearly got a rise out of me. It was the first time in years I’ve been offended, rather than amused, by anyone’s opinion. Merle Haggard sprang at once to the stage of my mind with “The Fightin’ Side Of Me,” and I wanted to have at this kid. However, my better judgment prevailed.
Still, I could not believe anyone would be so audacious as to make such a claim. I’d like to see him tell the same thing to the families, friends, and fellow soldiers of the fallen. I’m sure he would be pretty unpopular.
It’s important to realize our fallen soldiers are heroes, each and every one, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re in support of this war or not. These men and women died serving their country – our country – and that means they died for you and me. Losing their lives for the sake of others makes them heroes.
Every soldier who has been wounded in Iraq is a hero, too. They are struggling to piece together shattered lives that have been changed forever, again for you and me. Selflessly bearing such a burden makes them heroes.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also say that every last soldier serving in Iraq who has remained unharmed is a hero. I’ll extend that to all of our veterans, as well. Just reporting for duty and getting on a plane, knowing they might never come back, defines them as heroes. Doing a job every day most of us can’t even begin to comprehend the realities of makes them heroes. And they do the job for you and me.
Maybe the gentleman who so upset me thinks qualifying as a hero requires an extraordinary show of bravery and disregard for one’s own life in defense of another, like in the movies. Again, I’d say what our soldiers do every day is just that. The only difference is they are not in an action movie or a video game. All this makes me think of an old saying: There are old heroes, and there are bold heroes, but there are no old, bold heroes. Heroism isn’t a Hollywood production.
If it wasn’t for our soldiers, it could very well be you and me in their places. So I would like to offer my thanks to all of our soldiers, past and present. They’re heroes, every one, and they are the true embodiment of the word.
Justin Sandell is a freshman open-option major. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Relies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.