In reflecting on the incalculable valor and bravery of those who have defended our nation during times of war, it’s important to move beyond the cliches and shibboleths that have become an inseparable part of their legacy.
We should begin by observing the theme that clearly emerges among those we call heroes and that is their discomfort with that appellation. In rare instances when they succumb to interviews they unselfishly praise the sacrifices of others who made their efforts possible and they do so with the kind of self-efacing humility one rarely sees these days.
A crucial part of our desire to call them hero’s is that as we listen to or read about their accounts of combat, whether on Iwo Jima, in the Battle of the Bulge, or the less well known horrors in Korea and Vietnam, from our remote perspective we are acutely skeptical about whether we would rise to the occasion under similar conditions.
That takes us to the underlying nature of heroism, and that is how the savagery of circumstances transforms otherwise undistinguished people into those who take control of situations that are rapidly deteriorating before their eyes.
It’s because most of us never experience anything even distantly similar that the descriptions of men in apparently hopeless predicaments, with everything on the line, bring lumps to our throats and make us glassy-eyed with the kind of reverence for their sacrifices we are convinced we will never be forced to make.
That analysis not only puts their heroism in a more meaningful perspective, it’s all the more remarkable because it brings into stark relief one of the timeless and admirable characteristics of human beings and that is our deep capacity for action far beyond our understanding.
So, as we reflect upon the myriad sacrifices made throughout our Republic’s history up to and including those made every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as we ponder the dizzying rows of white crosses in places such as Arlington Cemetery and Flanders Field, we should take the time to express our thanks to those in uniform and to those who made that ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.
Our very way of life that we often so selfishly take for granted is the incontestable legacy of their sacrifices and on this day we give thanks for the hundreds of thousands who currently serve, and those who rest silently, but not forgotten, in graveyards here and throughout the world.
Mella is Founder and Editor of ClearCommentary.com, available at: