“And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?”
— Thomas B. Macaulay
The word “hero” is one used far too often, and understood far too little, in our modern society.
We refer to superior athletes as heroes for their ability to run fast and jump high. We confer the appelation to musicians and enertainers because they can strum a guitar or tell a joke. We make heroes of politicians who could never understand the sort of personal sacrifice required to truly earn the title.
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
— Winston Churchill
It is sad that we are so desperate for heroes that we fail to recognize those we enounter on a daily basis: those who put aside their own needs and desires in order to serve others; those who are willing to sacrifice for the common good, those who do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do.
There are many who qualify for the title of hero who are never afforded the appropriate recognition — officers of the law, firemen, EMTs, teachers, doctors, those we encounter in many different fields on a daily basis who consistently demonstrate a code of personal integrity and strength of character.
Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor heroes — true heroes, not those of the pop culture variety.
“I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.”
— Bob Dylan
It is a holiday set aside to recognize those who sacrificed their lives for the betterment of others; men and women of the nation’s military who have died on battlefields around the world and here at home throughout the nation’s history.
Those who have given their lives in defense of freedom, so that the rest of us can enjoy the privileges that come from a quality of life unequaled anywhere else, are too seldom remembered, too seldom honored.
And a single day once a year is not enough.
“I offer neither pay, nor quarters, nor food; I offer only hunger, thirst, forced marches, battles and death. Let him who loves his country with his heart, and not merely with his lips, follow me.”
— Giuseppe Garibaldi
What is truly remarkable about the American heroes we honor with this holiday is that, for the most part, they were just average folks like the rest of us, until called upon to do something of heroic proportions in service to their country.
The nation that we love and cherish has been built upon the sacrifices of the men and women who have served in its military. This weekend, we honor those who sacrificed their lives so that we in turn can enjoy our lives.
Take time Monday to think of the heroes, and to ask yourself where you might be without them.
“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”
— Norman Schwarzkopf