Willian Astore, published on TomDispatch.com, brings some necessary discussion to the civic table with his “Our American Heroes”: Why It’s Wrong to Equate Military Service With Heroism.
When I was a kid in the 1970s, I loved reading accounts of American heroism from World War II. I remember being riveted by a book about the staunch Marine defenders of Wake Island and inspired by John F. Kennedy’s exploits saving the sailors he commanded on PT-109. Closer to home, I had an uncle - like so many vets of that war, relatively silent on his own experiences - who had been at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941, and then fought them in a brutal campaign on Guadalcanal, where he earned a Bronze Star. Such men seemed like heroes to me, so it came as something of a shock when, in 1980, I first heard Yoda’s summary of war in The Empire Strikes Back. Luke Skywalker, if you remember, tells the wizened Jedi master that he seeks ‘a great warrior.’ ‘Wars not make one great,’ Yoda replies.”
Ever since the events of 9/11, there’s been an almost religious veneration of U.S. service members as “Our American Heroes” (as a well-intentioned sign puts it at my local post office). That a snappy uniform or even intense combat in far-off countries don’t magically transform troops into heroes seems a simple point to make, but it’s one worth making again and again, and not only to impressionable, military-worshipping teenagers.
Here, then, is what I mean by “hero”: someone who behaves selflessly, usually at considerable personal risk and sacrifice, to comfort or empower others and to make the world a better place. Heroes, of course, come in all sizes, shapes, ages, and colors, most of them looking nothing like John Wayne or John Rambo or GI Joe (or Jane).
Anyone quoting from Yoda can’t be too far off the mark (place goofy smiley emoticon here). Seriously, this is one of the best columns I’ve seen yet that dares broach into this topic, mixing the highly personal with the historical.
Read the rest of this column from military veteran and historian William Astore Here.
This earlier one from Astore on the American military’s German fetish, titled as an “American Blitzkrieg” is another well worth attention (for those of you concerned about the state of the American military today, and the trajectory it seems to be on.)