JPWREL says this:
Permit me to paraphrase Winston Churchill's words about heroism. "People often act heroically because they don't understand the dangers that lie ahead. But some see those dangers, and are afraid of them but do what they do in spite of their fears. No man can be braver than that."
We have a very special regard for those that consciously consider the risks that lie ahead in moments of great peril and yet through skill, willpower, and a selfless sense of duty perform feats of courage. They are in fact 'heroic' in its classic sense, and exceed the ordinary measure of honorably performed duty done in times of danger.
Sadly, as Americans we have devalued the word 'hero' by applying it to merely the performance of one's responsibility, much like parents today overly praise their children for everyday accomplishments. Particularly, especially in the media the expression 'hero' seems generic and contains a disturbing element of pandering.
Today, there is a vast void between those that wear a uniform and go in harm's way and those that don't. We watch from afar as uneasy spectators as our countrymen suffer death and wounds of the flesh and mind for causes we often hold in doubt. So we revert to a hyperbole of gratitude that is seemingly harmless but in fact laced with insincerity.
By diminishing the value of the expression 'hero' to encompass the ordinary, how do we describe the 'extraordinary' intrepidness of the likes of Joe Foss, Eugene Fluckey, 'Butch' O'Hara, John Basilone, and a host of others of such formidable stature? What other term can we reserve for very special people who have transcended fear and danger time and again and performed beyond the call of duty?
Rubber Ducky adds:
Is it just me or has the common use of the phrase 'hero' gone completely out of control? I've known heroes, Medal of Honor winners like Dick O'Kane (godfather of 'the new TANG' in which I served as XO), Pat Brady, with whom I played a lot of handball, and Jay Vargas, a National classmate. These guys and their ilk are heroes; for them the concept was crafted.
But I've never claimed that any of my 37 years' service was 'heroic,' nor would I attribute heroism per se to those I served with, even the friends I lost in THRESHER and SCORPION.
I think it gives the civilian population yet another reason to ignore war and those now fighting to let them call everyone a hero. And it cheapens the real thing.
What do you say?
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.