Thursday, July 29, 2010

Where Are The Heroes?

Do we live in a society that no longer has heroes? Have we become so indifferent and cynical that men and women doing heroic things are seldom reported and hardly noticed, and consequently never celebrated or emulated? Are we too sophisticated to become caught up in something as yesterday as a hero?

And if so, where did our heroes go?

Admittedly, it's a stretch to find public officials nowadays whose behavior could be considered heroic. If anything, based upon the sheer number of ethics complaints and court proceedings, the opposite is often more descriptive. Our Hollywood celebrity culture provides an endless supply of beautiful but shallow, egocentric, sparsely talented individuals who provide us with an entertainment outlet not just with their "craft," but also with their antics and opinions.

The sporting world has become so soiled with cheating, pampered, self-absorbed athletes and coaches, and so driven by college and professional organizations that devalue longstanding virtues like loyalty and integrity, that past sports giants like Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi would likely be filled with disgust. And the corporate world has recently had more than its share of arrogant industry titans who have lied, bilked, and bullied their way to lifetime riches with an astonishing amount of collateral damage to their companies, customers, and shareholders.

There have been six Medals of Honor awarded to American servicemen during the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. How many Americans have seen television or print media coverage of these men? How many Americans know the names of all six? Or perhaps just one? And is this confirmation that we no longer have any heroes?

No. We still have heroes. The skill and calmness of U.S. Airways pilot Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger who, with an airplane full of crew and passengers, landed the stricken jetliner safely in the Hudson River, captivated the nation. We will never forget the incomprehensible bravery of the FDNY firefighters as they climbed the smoke-filled stairwells of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. The outpouring of goodwill toward New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was as much about his efforts in offering a helping hand to a still-reeling post-Katrina community as it was his Super Bowl victory.

Americans still pull their fellow citizens from rain-swollen rivers. Single moms hold jobs and raise kids and sometimes even manage to go back to school. Cancer victims fight back against their disease, often against overwhelming odds, and still make contributions to their communities or companies or churches. They are heroes, all. We are still a nation that needs its heroes, even without the high profile, to provide us with examples to follow, to cause us to remember our past, to give us reason for hope and encouragement.

And we still have men and women in uniform who are as heroic as any previous generation. By the way, the following Medal of Honor awardees are genuine American heroes:

SFC Paul R. Smith, U.S. Army (posthumous) - Iraq
CPL Jason L. Dunham, U.S. Marine Corps (posthumous) - Iraq
LT Michael P. Murphy, U.S. Navy (posthumous) - Afghanistan
Petty Officer Michael A. Monsoor, U.S. Navy (posthumous) - Iraq
PFC Ross A. McGinnis, U.S. Army (posthumous) - Iraq
SFC Jared C. Monti, U.S. Army (posthumous) - Afghanistan

With gratitude. May they Rest in Peace.

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