Monday, May 10, 2010

Heroes?

I'm sorry, and I know I may catch major flak for this (from my two readers)....

But is anyone else tired of the "every soldier is a hero" attitude?

Putting on a uniform and successfully passing basic training makes you a SOLDIER.
Surviving a war or "police action" makes you a FORTUNATE soldier.

Performing a HEROIC ACT, for others, above and beyond any reasonable expectation of human conduct, while making one's own personal well-being a secondary concern makes one a HERO.

Has every single soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan done that? Of course not. Very few even get the opportunity to do so, let alone rise to the occasion.

Have we lowered the standards of what makes a Hero so much that all one has to do is serve? Not, of course, that SERVING isn't HONORABLE. But there's a difference between an honorable person and a HERO.
Does every soldier get awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor when they get home? Well, why not? They're all "heroes," right? And that's exactly what the Medal of Honor says about a person: this is far more than an average person, this is a HERO.

I could have kept this to myself. It's no problem.
I agree strongly with the honorability of serving one's country. I grew up with the military, am a real patriot (meaning I didn't suddenly start waving a flag on 9/11/'01), learned military tradition through the US Army ROTC program, and then was a soldier myself. And you know what? I don't consider myself in any way a hero, even though I'm proud of who I am and what I've done. Would I have thrown myself on a grenade to save my comrades? I don't know... fortunately I never had the opportunity to find out. But I served with Honor, and continue to honor those who do.

The reason I can't keep it to myself any longer is that I know that not EVERY soldier serves with honor, let alone heroism. Soldiers are, for the most part, pretty much like the rest of us: there are Heroes, most are average, and there are bad apples.

Not too long ago I worked with a guy who had recently gotten back from Iraq. Like many, I could tell he was having a hard time adjusting to normal, non-soldier, civilian life. But from what I learned about PROPER military service, I know he never "adjusted" HONORABLY to that either.

This guy regularly made me sick to my stomach with stories. Not of "war stories" (he saw very little actual action), but of stories of his and some of his buddies' behavior.
He informed me of every nasty prejudice term they had for the Iraqis - not the ENEMIES, but the civilians they were there to protect. He informed me of every bigoted attitude he and others had toward them.

He told me stories of how they harassed and bullied the locals. Not the "suspicious" ones... all of them.

He told me how they would often amuse themselves by making Iraqi children fight each other for a piece of candy.
And disgusting things they would make them do for an American quarter or dollar bill.

And he never once told one of these stories with the sour taste of shame or disbelief in his mouth. He told them as perfectly normal anecdotes, like you would tell me what you did over the weekend. Like he expected me to be amused, or even impressed.

So up until the point at which I knew this man, this former soldier, I figured calling all soldiers "Heroes" was simply a matter of semantics. Whatever... who cares... I know what a soldier is, and if everyone else wants to call them ALL heroes, and that helps to build a strong national identity, NO PROBLEM.

But then I learned that not ALL soldiers are honorable, or even decent human beings, let alone "Heroes." Of course, I never would have assumed they were... we're all human after all, but it was fine with me for that knowledge to be out of sight and out of mind.

BELIEVE ME... I can't stress enough that I honor, respect and appreciate those who serve in our Armed Forces. Agree with "the war" or not, being a soldier CAN BE the most honorable of all professions.

But now, every single time I hear someone say something like, "our heroes in uniform" I think about THAT guy, and his buddies. I know they're in the minority (I hope), but I'm reminded that NOT everyone who puts on a uniform is in ANY way a Hero.

When you say that ALL soldiers are Heroes, you're saying THAT guy is one too. And frankly, if you think THAT guy is a Hero, you make me as sick to my stomach as he did.