I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of the mini series Band of Brothers. It’s a hard series to watch, and not because the action in the film is about as close to real combat as most of us will ever get. These men were closer to each other than any blood brother could ever be.
Tomorrow is September 11, actually is on the east coast. There will be a lot of speeches about heroes tomorrow and I wonder if we really understand what a “hero” is. It’s a word that’s been tossed around a lot the past few years. Mostly by people who have an agenda to satisfy. Funny thing is, you don’t hear it much from the men and women in uniform. It’s the civilians with those agendas. Especially some individuals who never wore a uniform when they had the chance. They seem quick to provide others with the chance to earn the label they never earned for themselves.
There’s a documentary that goes with the mini series. Interviews with the men from Easy who still are still alive and willing to tell their stories for the camera. Sometimes they have to stop, after all these years the memories are still too fresh. D Day, the days after, Brecourt, Carentan, Bastogne, Market Garden, Landesberg, names the rest of us know only from history books or paintings.
There is a common thread that runs through all their stories. They don’t claim the label of hero for themselves. It’s always someone else. The brother that died at Monte Casino a few days before one man jumped on D Day. The men who never made it out of the planes. The soldiers who never even made it ashore. The heroes for these men were the brothers who came home under a flag or who rest under a marker somewhere in Europe.
At end the former company commander remembers a letter from a comrade. The writer’s grandson had asked “were you a hero in the war, grandpa?” “No, but I served with a company of heroes.”
So, while the word hero is being tossed around tomorrow, please take a moment to think about who your heroes are and why. We had a neighbor who served from day one to the end of WWII. He never talked about it much. He fought his way across North Africa, Italy and Southern France.
And while we’re at it, let’s remember those who could have earned the title and never seized the opportunity. They had better things to do with their time.