By J. D. Pendry
Not every person of military service is a hero. Not every person who serves does so out of patriotism. Many are compelled into service for varying reasons. They may be obliged to continue a family tradition. Service may be the means to pay for their education. They may look to the service to give them a marketable skill. There are a multitude of reasons. And on the political side? Politicians seem always ready for purposes of self-aggrandizement to promote their Veteran status and exaggerate their military exploits. Some get caught making their false claims of service and heroics. But others? They’re protected by the hero aura.
Whether by conscription or volunteering, I was conditioned in my early life to believe military service was something young men should experience. From Southern West Virginia, at least in my time, I’d wager that many more young men left high school headed for the military or a coal mine than did for college. My initial enlistment into the Army was by no means a selfless act. The farthest thing from it. My odds of going to Vietnam were quite good, but by the time I completed training, Vietnam was in full drawdown. When I enlisted In 1971, I was not thinking about service or patriotism or anything except escaping from the hillbilly ghettoes on the North Side of Chicago. Later for me, it came to be about service and patriotism because I found my family and a fulfilling purpose of serving something greater than self.
People like me are not heroes. Most now serving and most Veterans will tell you they do not consider themselves heroic, but will always offer they’ve served with and known true heroes. True heroes are the humblest people you’ll ever encounter. They do not boast and insist on recognizing accomplishments of others before themselves and attributing to others the deeds for which they are recognized. Soldiers in the collective often perform heroic acts or complete heroic missions. It’s their standard – their warrior creed. They will tell you who the heroes are. Those selfless individuals who exceed self-imposed expectations often performing miraculous acts of bravery to become true heroes among the heroic.
Over compensating America, justifiably so, is guilt ridden over its treatment of Vietnam Veterans and Veterans in general so today everyone that serves is easily labeled hero. On some, are built legends. Some try to build their own heroic story or just outright lie about it for other purposes. In shining, practically impenetrable armor they mount their white horses and gallop in seeking adoration. I learned early in my Army career to be wary of the boastful who rode in on their noble status to fix you or save you. Generally, they could do neither because they were preoccupied with self-promotion. People hesitate to oppose those fenced off by the hero aura. Because of it, bad things sometimes happen or bad things are covered up. We tiptoe lightly around the hero aura. The longer a myth perpetuates the tougher it is to break through that armor. It is much easier to pretend admiration of a hero, real or mythical, than to question their heroic merits or motives. When their hero standing becomes national, their armor becomes impenetrable. They will be admired and defended by people who neither know the truth nor pursue it.
By now, you may be wondering what possessed me to write about this topic. For the past few days I’ve poured over pages of information refreshing my memory about a few select and prominent people. Some real heroes and some self-proclaimed. Some still living some passed on. I was a little angered by recent news and I fully intended to dismantle some prominent individuals and had compiled pages of information with that in mind. It was going to be a full out brutally honest assault. I was pumped for it.
Then someone I trust implicitly and have near 5 decades, the kindest and gentlest soul I know, asked me why is that necessary. Other than satisfying my own anger, I could not offer a good reason. I was reminded that even bad people have families and they’ve probably endured enough. So, I will just leave it here. I will not stand in judgement of anyone. For as bad as I believe some of them are or were, each will face or have faced his or her Maker. All of us, whether or not history records true legacies, for the lives we’ve lived we will be held accountable. Our country has known many true heroes. We have also been served many myths. Myths that have harmed us as people and a country. Always seek the truth. Do not become blinded by the brightness of the hero aura.
© 2019 J. D. Pendry, J.D. Pendry’s American Journal, All Rights Reserved
Email J.D.: firstname.lastname@example.org