**I wrote this last year, and was asked to post it again. I'm happy to do so. Happy Veteran's Day!**
There has become a tendency in American culture to assign the label "hero" to anyone who does the difficult, the frightening, or the unpleasant. Our society has become so hungry for heroes that we give the label to anyone and render it almost a useless word.
Lest we forget what a true hero looks like:
He marched for months in the snow with nothing but rags covering his frostbitten feet, leaving bloody footprints behind him, to cross a frozen river and finally win the right to govern himself.
He fought the British in New Orleans, in the oppressive Southern humidity, to ultimately defeat the army of thousands with only a small band of men because "By the Eternal they shall not sleep on our soil."
He put on his uniform of blue and battled the heat, the humidity and Johnny Reb to keep this nation together so that he could leave it, intact, to his children and grandchildren who were yet to be born.
He put on his uniform of gray and fought dysentery and damn Yankees because he believed people had the right to govern themselves as they saw fit.
He rode across the plains risking capture, torture, death and an unmarked grave to protect his fellow Americans as they sought to win for themselves their future and freedom in the West.
He charged up San Juan Hill with the Rough Riders and helped to drive the Spanish out of Cuba because he knew from his history books that the oppressed heart yearns to be free.
He marched across Europe with its horrors of barbed wire and mustard gas to protect our brethren across the sea; because, people should have the right to live in peace with their neighbors. He willingly offered his life and twenty years later would send his own son to do the same.
He crossed Europe in a tank fighting harder and longer and bloodier than he ever could have imagined he would be asked to do, to liberate a people hunted and gathered into concentration camps by their fellow countrymen. He braved the horrors of war for years knowing that his loved ones waited at home but he had to finish the job before he returned to them; because, he knew that there is no "master race", truly all people are beloved in the sight of God.
He fought in the Pacific and raised that flag over Iwo Jima then dropped to his knees as Fr Suver said Mass, because freedom is a gift from the Almighty and even as it is defended in battle it must also be defended in prayer, and the American soldier has always looked to his God for the strength to do what is good and right in His eyes.
He fought in the sticky heat of Korea, a place he had never even heard of in school, fighting for the right of freedom and self-determination for people he didn't know; because, no one should have to live under Communism.
He fought in Vietnam for people who spoke a language he didn't know, who weren't sure they trusted a man who looked so different from themselves. Because liberty is worth dying for and should be protected at all costs. Only to return and be spat upon by his fellow Americans. He wore their insults with pride because he knew that only in a country protected by men like him would people be free to spit at soldiers.
He went to the Middle East, twice, once to help an ally and once to liberate a people. He lived with sand fleas and enormous spiders and carried heavy gear in 130 degree heat because he knew that all people really want is to be able to get up every day and raise their children in peace without worrying about religious fanatics or crazy men shattering their lives.
He has walked and fought for freedom, liberty, and self-determination and the dignity of human beings everywhere he has gone. These battle hardened men who willingly offer up their own lives and futures so that nameless strangers can speak and think and live exactly as they wish. He does all of this without thanks, without recognition, without fanfare, but with honor...always with honor.
We should have a word bigger than "hero" for men like this, a word that swells the heart with pride that they are ours. Thank goodness we do...we call them Veterans.