Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Quiet Hero

Nowadays, the word hero is used a lot.  I had to gently admonish my nephew and niece last year when they thanked me for being a hero on Veteran's Day.  I'm no hero.  I served my time, but it wasn't anything to write home about.

This gentleman, on the other hand, qualifies:

Stamatakos took off his parachute, for better leverage, and lowered himself cautiously into the bomb bay. He straddled the bay, which was open, the two bombs at his feet. He had a hatchet handle in one hand and was clinging to a leather grip with the other.
(H/T to This Ain't Hell.)

Imagine, you're 19.  Your job is dangerous enough to have a life expectancy measured in weeks.  There's an emergency, and you climb out into an open bay 20000 feet above the ground to whack at two BOMBS with a hatchet handle. You save not only your own skin, but also that of all of your crewmates.

And then you go through a successful life and you receive a letter from the Pentagon.  You've been given awarded the Silver Star, the 3rd highest decoration you can get.  Do you do the talk show circuit, expounding on policy since you obviously know what you're talking about?  No, you feel humbled by the honor and only after your family has written proof of your feat do you tell them about it.

Can you imagine your average 19 year old today doing something like that?  I know quite a few teenagers, and none of them come to mind.   Can you think of someone in our current generation doing something like that and then not beating on their chest or whining about not getting the recognition they think they deserve?

My next door neighbor is in his 80's, and he fought in Europe during the Second World War.  We talk every now and then about the military, mostly about Iraq and Afghanistan.  But he rarely even mentions his own experiences.  Most I've gotten out of him is that he saw and did things he never wants to remember and that is all he has to say. 

I hope that when the current crop of veterans takes their grandfathers' example and runs with it.  Real heroes don't need the recognition to show their worth.  It comes out in everything they do.  But it is good to see that a long overdue honor has been given to this most deserving warrior.

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