By David Maxwell
This past week as we were putting together the Memorial Day tribute for this week’s edition, one question kept popping into my head. With each photograph that came in of a veteran and with each story submitted of heroic, courageous and selfless acts, I kept asking myself, “Could I have done what they did? Could I have been that brave? Could I have been that selfless? Could I be a hero?” Could you?
So what makes a hero? Who is a hero? Is it the decorated general who leads his army to victory, or the unknown soldier quietly obeying orders? Is it the researcher who finds a cure for cancer, or the country doctor treating the sick? Should a hero be one who saves thousands of lives, or who comforts just one? And what drives them, these men and women we call our idols, our mentors, our elders, our friends? Is it duty? Determination? Perseverance? All these factors play their part, but I believe in addition to these traits you have to include another vital, unquantifiable element, and that is love. Love of our country and a love of humanity.
Each Memorial Day we salute the heroes who have given their lives in defense of our nation. Without their sacrifices we would not have this wonderful opportunity to live our lives in the land of the free. To them we owe an un-repayable debt.
The United States of America was born from the blood and ashes of a war. It was fought to defend the “self-evident” truth “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Since the war of 1776, nearly two and a half centuries ago, countless men and women, countless heroes have died for the same cause. Tyranny does not reign in America – as it does in so many places around the globe – because the men and women of our military have loved and love their country more than their own lives. These guys are our heroes.
Every society needs heroes. And every society has them. The reason we don’t often see them, outside the ranks of our deserving military and public safety officers, is because we don’t bother to look. The aforementioned heroes shine in the face of great adversity and perform amazing feats in difficult situations. But there are also heroes who live among us and perform their work unceremoniously, unnoticed by many of us, and make a difference in the lives of others.
All heroes are selfless people who perform extraordinary acts. The mark of heroes is not necessarily the result of their action, but what they are willing to do for others and for their chosen cause. Even if they fail, their determination lives on for others to follow. The glory lies not in the achievement, but in the sacrifice. Heroes serve to remind us of the higher purpose of self and society. Heroes represent greatness and aspirations.
This community is full of silent heroes. Countless people who wake each day with the goal to make this day a little better than yesterday for their neighbors, as well as themselves.
When I meet a veteran who has defended our freedoms, or a local teacher who is making a positive impact in the lives of students, or any other person making a difference, I express my appreciation, but I always wonder, could I be like them? I certainly hope so.
Heroes are admired for their achievements, noble qualities and selfless drive to make a better world. Becoming one is so much more about what they do than who they are.
Who are your heroes?
Have a safe and happy Memorial Day!
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