Thursday, March 01, 2012

Who is a Hero?

I really think the term hero is thrown around way too much. 
Seems like anyone in uniform (military or civilian) are
given carte blanche hero status, just because they wear
a uniform. They are NOT all heroes, and it lowers the
meaning of the term hero when used so easily. Even some
sports and entertainment figures are given hero status just
because of their social status and popularity, not for any
really heroic thing they have done.

Being killed on duty or on the job, does not automatically
make someone a hero. Not all people put on a uniform for
some higher purpose. I know I didn't join the Navy out of
some high calling. It was just plain practical. I knew I
wasn't going to college right out of high school,
and didn't want to be drafted into the Army. I joined the
Navy for 3 reasons. First, I thought it was one of the
safer military branches to be in during the late 60's while
the Vietnam war was being fought. Second, I was hoping to
cruise to places/countries I'd never been before and third,
I needed the GI bill to go to college when I finished
my enlistment.

I still ended up going to Vietnam, but I was on a
destroyer off the coast. We also came under fire twice
from shore batteries off the coast of North Vietnam,
but even if I'd been wounded or killed I still was
not a hero. I actually took "home" movies of the shells
landing all around our ship. Nothing heroic about that.
I just wanted a memory. I did pray the whole time asking
God not to let me die though, so I could eventually see
the results of my filming.

When my ship ended it's tour of duty and went back
to Florida, I volunteered to go back to Vietnam on shore
duty, but that was because of curiosity and I wanted to
see what all the fuss was about first hand, since I
only saw Vietnam from a ship the previous tour.
It definitely wasn't because of a some higher call to duty.
I also had developed an affinity for underage drinking
(I was only 18) and Asian women, having stopped in Japan,
Taiwan and the Philippines on the way to Vietnam.
Don't see any heroics there either.

People become soldiers, firemen, policemen, etc. for a
multitude of reasons, and some of those people are not
even NICE people, much less heroes. I ran into a surprising
amount of those, both enlisted and officers while serving
on ship and shore duty, Probably MORE percentage wise than
you'd find in the general civilian population.

We need to stop lumping everyone in a certain occupation
as a hero just because they were killed doing their job
and/or who killed them as the only requirement for
hero status. Not all the people that were killed by the
terrorists on 9/11 were heroes. Many were in the wrong
place at the wrong time, though there were indeed
many heroes who showed more concern for others than
for themselves on that day. I just think the term hero
should be reserved for those who have actually shown
heroism in some way in everyday life or in a war or crisis.

I know people want to give some kind of meaning to
senseless deaths, especially when it happens at the same
time to a lot of people in a war or terrorist attack,
but every day, people are senselessly killed in shootings
and accidents and I don't see them all being called
heroes in the news.

What makes the person killed during a terrorist attack more
of a hero than kids killed in a school shooting, or a family
killed by a crazed gunman in a fast food restaurant?
If two people were killed in a restaurant by a
distraught former employee and one was in a military uniform
and the other was a shabbily dressed homeless person,
would they both be called "fallen heroes"?
Now what if the person doing the shooting was a
Muslim terrorist? Would both of the deceased now
be elevated to hero status?

The term "Hero" should be reserved for those who
go above and beyond their duties in a job or in their
everyday life during an exceptional moment or through a
lifetime of selflessness, compassion and unconditional love.
They should be called a hero for who they are or were as a
person and not because of a particular uniform or membership
in a particular organization or group.