Friday, February 06, 2009


I met a real hero today.

That's a word that has lost its meaning. It is so over-used these days; everyone from sports stars to pop stars are called "heroes."

Hero: n. [L. heros; Gr. a demigod.]

1. A man of distinguished valor, intrepidity or enterprise in danger; as a hero in arms.

2. A great, illustrious or extraordinary person; as a hero in learning.
~1828 Webster
I am sorry, sports fans, but Michael Jordan and Brett Favre? Not heroes. I do not care what roles they play, what songs they sing, or how many times they have checked themselves into rehab, I cannot think of many -- if any -- pop culture "icons" (for lack of a better word) that deserve the moniker of "hero." Certainly none that I would want the Horde to emulate. (Aside: I mean, no matter how heroic their characters, do you want a son to grow up to be like Christian Bale or Robert Downey, Jr.? Really? Are Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan the daughters you want to have?)

This man, however, was in his mid-fifties, I would say. He was career Army: twenty years of hard work. We are not talking a desk pilot, here. This man served twenty long years, through some of the worst days in our modern history--1961-1981: a lot of crap went down in those two decades.

This man, in his words, had a lot wrong with him. "I've spent most of the last several months in bed; I'm in bad shape," he told me. His wife sat there with tears in his eyes as he talked how much time he spent at the VA Hospital, and how much he owed to her--his second wife. "She's saved my life," he admitted. He went on to explain that he was fully combat disabled.

This means he was not disabled by falling off a ladder in a supply warehouse somewhere stateside. As he told me, "I'm disabled because of combat."

Needless to say, I thanked him profusely for his service. He accepted it gratefully; I told him that I hoped he heard it often. He confessed that he didn't hear it much, but a lot more than he used to hear it.

I almost wept, hearing that. His humility was evident. The kind of humility that his experiences would give a person. A truly scriptural humility. The kind I would expect Captain Moroni to have had. But still, I almost wept -- with sadness, as much as gratitude and amazement.

You have got to be kidding me. Here we have someone who has almost given the last full measure, someone who has protected our Liberty and way of life, and he receives little gratitude? I would like to believe that it is because he does not walk around in his uniform. I rationalized that people just do not know he is a veteran, let alone a combat-injured veteran. I also, sadly, realized that it was more likely the result of political correctness: it just is not fashionable to respect the warrior.

Then, he said something that pushed him up another notch or two in my book: "I don't want a free ride. I'm paying all my creditors back."

He would not even entertain the thought of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. He was here to see if a Chapter 13 would work for him, and if he could pay his creditors back at 100%.

Do you know how often I hear that?

Usually it is "How can we screw over these jerks that have taken so much of my money?" or words to that effect. Now, sometimes this attitude is almost warranted, because there are a lot of predators out there, preying on the stupid and uninformed in our society. But it is not always the case; probably not even the majority of the time.

But he was adamant. "I'm paying back everything I owe. I just need a little breathing room; I need the bleeding to stop just a little so that I can get on my feet and start paying them all back, everything to everyone I owe."

Wow. I cannot express what a feeling I had. He had nearly given his all to his country and here he was, not asking for a handout, not asking for "his due," not even really asking for much help. All he wanted was some breathing room so that he could pay everyone back at 100%.

I do not often see heroes. Combat veterans do not normally scream out their records for all to hear and praise, so I do not often get to thank them for their service and sacrifices.

Add on to that someone who does not want to pursue what others would think they were owed, who do not want to take advantage of the system? Strange and uncommon in itself.

Together? A rarity. I feel as if a dragon has just crossed the road in front of me, majestic, stately, and truly unexpected.

Not only do I thank you, sir, I salute you.

These are the heroes I, as a father, want for the Horde's role models.

Not Michael Jordan. Not Miley Cyrus.


No comments: