I don’t understand how we could have so many heroes today.

I knew a hero in the Vietnam war.  He died rescuing wounded.  I knew another in the first Gulf War.  She was killed by friendly fire.  But, today, every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine who returns from a combat zone is called a hero.  I don’t quite understand that.

Audie Murphy was a hero, no question.  Ernest E. Evans of the destroyer USS Johnston attacking a Japanese battle fleet was a hero.  Chuck Yeager was a hero.  So was John Basilone on Guadalcanal.  It’s great to think but hard to imagine that today’s US military is stuffed to the brim with men and women of that caliber.

But we call them all heroes.

We had a hero in my family.  His is a story I like to tell:

The day after Pearl Harbor, he – my mother’s cousin – and all the young men on his block went down to the recruiting office to enlist to fight Japan.   The recruiter took every one but him.  He had a bad heart.  Didn’t know it until then.  The recruiter sent him home.

Over the next months, he saw every young man he knew enlist and go away to fight.  His whole town emptied out of young men.  He was ashamed not to go with them.  He had no reason to be ashamed, but he was.

Then the terrible moment came when the war was going so badly for us no one was sure America would survive.  He went again to the recruiter and said, “There’s got to be some job you can give me.  There’s got to be something I can do.”

The recruiter, who needed all the fighting man he could find and there were never enough, said, “I can’t make you a rifleman or sailor or airman, but I can give you a job that frees up someone else to fight.  I’ll make you a quartermaster.”

The army took him, my mother’s cousin with the bad heart.  Trained him.  Sent him to North Africa.  To a supply warehouse.  He shoved boxes of war supplies.  He pushed papers.  He was part of the great machine that powered Patton across the desert and into Sicily.  He did his part.

When the war was over and he came home, he had on his khakis no medals for fighting valor.  All he wore was the medal every other soldier, sailor, airman and Marine – all 16 million of them – was issued:  the World War II Victory Medal.  He was a very proud young man.

It was only an ordinary medal, but he was only an ordinary hero.

WW2 Victory Medal 2


(c) 2014 Steven Hardesty

http://www.forgottenwarstories.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/WW2-Victory-Medal-Sm.jpghttp://www.forgottenwarstories.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/WW2-Victory-Medal-Sm.jpgstevenhardestyOp-Edgulf war,hero,world war III don’t understand how we could have so many heroes today. I knew a hero in the Vietnam war.  He died rescuing wounded.  I knew another in the first Gulf War.  She was killed by friendly fire.  But, today, every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine who returns from a combat...Recovering forgotten and overlooked military history