Real American Heroes

Real American Heroes

I confess that I change heroes on occasion. Chuck Heston and Arnold Schwarzenegger still hold the number one and two slots, but Michael Jordan dropped down a few notches as he’s not done anything truly of heroic proportion recently. When Mike runs for Senate, then he’ll be back in the top three.

Because that’s what Mike should do. Owning a basketball team is way too easy. I mean, how hard can it be? For Michael Jordan, not very. So public office is the way to go if he wants to score the three-pointers with me again. Chuck’s solidified his position as David Lee Beowulf’s #1 hero thanks to his selfless dedication to protecting and fighting for American citizens’ freedom from those crypto-fascists (oh yes they are!) who want to run things. Arnold’s a close second because he not only admitted “inhaling” when questioned about drugs related to speculation that he’d run for office, but he admitted “…snorting, injecting, …everything…” Honesty. The man obviously values the truth. My heroes are truth-tellers.

My heroes meet the mark, too.

So let’s flash up to this little patch of the world called Kosovo where I’ll be until the late spring.

KOSOVO, Yugoslavia. I won’t say my eyes have been opened to “real American heroes” over the last couple of months, but I’ve certainly made up a few DLBeowulfian observations about what genuine heroes are made of. The heroes here are the men (and a few women — I’m saving that one for another day…) who were ordered over here and came without complaint — as far as the “big-picture” scheme of things goes. (I’m also saving lots more for another day concerning what else I’ve observed over here.)

Let me ask you this: if someone you maybe didn’t respect ordered you to leave your home, family and job to go live for a year in Elbonia, where you would be forbidden to touch members of the opposite sex, drink alcohol, or even surf the porn or serial killer Web sites, how would you react? Add to that the very real possibility that you’ll be shot at; plus having the occasional grenade lobbed your way; plus the ubiquitous landmines… Would you go? I mean, is the USA being invaded? Aren’t our armed forces/defense supposed to rely on “sophisticated, computerized weapons” (whatever they are) instead of “ground troops”? And besides, don’t people join the army as a means of paying for college or “getting experience”? Nobody’s shooting at us, right?!

Nevertheless, our armed forces have been deployed. And you know what else? Our National Guardsmen have been deployed heavily, too. These are the people, otherwise known as “weekend warriors,” who only “play army” for a couple of days a month — close to home, too. Now they’re thousands of miles away, up to their knees in mud, here for the long haul.

(I volunteered for this job, so I don’t enter into the equation; I like it here, including the food — they all think I’m crazy, too.)

Granted, everyone has a job to do and they’re all with some level of risk. And I’ll certainly admit that folks who join the military do, in fact, know what they’re getting into. But I don’t think it’s fair, however, to hold that against them when the genuine sacrifices they’ve made are brought to light. (I remember hearing this from a coworker after I’d returned from training at Fort Benning, “hey, they all know they could be shipped out at any minute…”) Again, in my case, I volunteered for the mission and had a good six months before leaving the comforts of home. How would I react had I been given one week’s notice? Is it fair to write off being “…treated like a pawn in chess…” as a simple consequence of career choice?

No, it’s not fair. Yes, it certainly is a consequence of career choice, but, theoretically the careers that these people chose are there such that the United States of America will continue to exist. And they go where they’re ordered to go.

And let me say that our soldiers are very good at carrying out orders. Yeah, there are a few “hoseheads” who somehow made it here without being able to tie their own shoelaces — or worse — but the winners far outnumber the rare loser. American soldiers are successful because they are focused. They focus on the mission. Because successful completion of the mission means you get to live another day and you’re that much closer to being back with your wife, children, beer, the personal car, the private shower, no MREs, the not-taking-a-dump-in-front-of-the-whole-world, etc.

And they take on their missions with the full knowledge that they might come back missing a few pieces or not at all. One day you’re sitting in front of the TV set having a beer, or maybe you’re with your wife and kids at dinner, or maybe you’re “laying the pipe” in the privacy of your own home… the next day, you’re flipping end-over-end in a Hum-Vee because some jerk decided to double-stack a few TMA-3’s in a road that was clear in the morning and when you finally come to a stop, you’re dead. Dead in a country that offers no threat whatsoever to the security of the United States. Dead in a pile of mud all but ignored by the rest of Europe until the US decided it was worth sending our highest-speed young men to “stop the insanity.”

Your buddies don’t quit, though. The work doesn’t stop. The tears may flow, but the mission goes on until it’s completed.

So when I read in the 3 February 2000 Washington Times (working off a Chicago Tribune story) that a Gore campaign staffer called former Navy SEAL and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Senator Bob Kerrey (D-Nebraska) a “cripple,” I wondered what kind of people we have running this country. (Sen. Kerrey lost a leg while in combat in Vietnam.) What kind of people will we elect to the highest office who might order our finest off to cauterize the wounds the warlord-of-the-moment has caused — only to honor them later in life with infantile ridicule? Is that the ultimate reward due a hero? Is there no decency?

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