By Jay L. Thompson
In the height of World War I, a Southern backwoodsman named Alvin York was drafted into the Army. His upbringing and hunting experience had developed his marksmanship to the point of rivaling Jessie James. However, this was a man of convictions. Due to his religious beliefs, he filed an exemption as a conscientious objector. But after much counsel and prayer, he decided to help, “Make the world safe for democracy.”
After his training he crossed the ocean to the Western Front in France where he nearly single-handedly defeated, disarmed, and captured a whole squadron of German soldiers. His courageous action helped to win the strategic battle of the Argonne Forest.
Years later, before the U.S. was forced by the attack of Pearl Harbor to enter WWII, Ret. Sergeant Alvin York commented, “…the thing they forget is that liberty and freedom and democracy are so very precious that you do not fight to win them once and stop. Liberty and freedom and democracy are prizes awarded only to those people who fight to win them and then keep fighting eternally to hold them!” We would greatly benefit from understanding this statement.
What is a hero? Noah Webster’s definition is, “A man (or woman) of distinguished valor, intrepidity or enterprise in (the face of) danger.” According to the American Heritage dictionary, a hero is, “anyone noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his life.”
Do we have heroes today? Yes, but many of the most popular heroes are not all that heroic. Rock musicians and macho movie stars are high on the hero lists. Not that I’m down on all the movies and musicians. There are some good ones, but Boy George and Michael Jackson? Come on! It seems the greatest danger these type of “heroes” face is to be trampled by their fans. Nothing heroic about that.
Many times it seems the true hero catches the blame for others’ irresponsible actions rather than getting the credit they deserve. Our Vietnam veterans are a prime example. There were no ticker tape parades when they returned.
Recently we were shown another example of this paradox. A patriotic lt. colonel and decorated veteran of Vietnam was sent through the congressional ringer for the insidious crime of aiding and abetting our friends, the freedom fighters in Nicaragua. From watching the hearings on TV you would think the inquisition committee was selected by the KGB.
Though none of us know all the details about Colonel Oliver North, it would be safe to assume that anyone with seven rows of medals on his chest, including a Purple Heart, a Gold star, and two crosses of Gallantry, can’t be all bad.
The question posed by the title of this article assumes that we are in need of heroes today. Everyone wants to be a hero but few are willing to pay the price for the role. Many a hero has undoubtedly lived and died without a single headline telling the story. Are you ready to pay the price of heroism even if the credit is given to someone else? It is not the celebrated hero image that we need today, but rather the self-sacrificing compassion and courage that a true hero is made of.
The battles rage on many fronts; drugs, moral degradation, disease, and communism. Only those with a fearless character devoid of selfishness will be able to last in the war we are fighting now. Others will either sit it out or become a casualty. Do you have the moral fiber to take the heat? We could all use some additional development in such virtues as courage, perseverance, and loyalty. This is the substance of true heroes. The time is now to prepare. Unsung heroes are always in shorter supply than demand for them. As a result there are many unfilled gaps. Will you be like Alvin York and fill one of them? The question is, “Are you ready to be a hero?”