I heard on Cognitive Dissonance where someone wrote in and made a good point about people in the military being automatically considered heroes and people thanking them for their service. I honestly don’t know where this thing got started but I’ll be the first one to say it ought to stop.
Most people in the military don’t join to serve. They join because it’s a job. They get things for it. They get the GI bill, they get job training, they get special treatment and special privileges from a ton of companies when they get out. They get special rates on home mortgages, they get special consideration in employment, they get discounts at dinner, etc. No, I know probably nobody joined the military because they know they’ll get a couple of bucks off at Denny’s, but you know what I’m talking about.
The point is, nowhere in the description of any job in the military that I’m aware of does the word “hero” appear. That’s not to say that there are no heroes in the military, certainly if you’ve got a Purple Heart or a Medal of Valor or a Distinguished Service Cross, you’re a hero. The man in the picture to the left, he’s a hero. He earned it by doing more than signing his name on the dotted line. How does someone who signed up for a 2-year stint, who never leaves the base and wants nothing more than to get out and go get a regular job, how do they fit into the same category as a real hero? Putting on a uniform doesn’t make you a hero, it’s what you actually do in the uniform that matters.
There’s something really wrong with the abject hero worship in America today and it really has nothing to do with our men and women in uniform and I’m certainly not denying them fair credit for the good they do, but even sports stars, overpaid prima donnas who prance down the sports field carrying a ball, they get called heroes, but what have they done that’s actually heroic? Not everyone in a uniform is a hero, not in the military, nor the police or fire departments. There are plenty of people who live their lives behind a desk, they don’t put their lives on the line and the only risk they ever take is staining their uniforms with the jelly filling from their donut. Yet if these people walk out in public, people assume, just because they wear the uniform, knowing absolutely nothing else about them, that they must be a hero, that they must be putting themselves in danger for the public good on a daily basis. The meter maid who goes around giving people parking tickets, that’s not a hero.
Of course, I don’t think Americans know what heroes or heroism are these days. Back in WWII, going to war was a risk, not just for the soldiers on the front lines, but for everyone. There was rationing, there were scrap metal drives, everyone had to cut back to support the war effort and they knew that many of the brave soldiers marching off to war would come back badly injured, if they came back at all. Those were the heroes, the men who actually put themselves in harm’s way to protect others. Today, there is very little risk. More and more, war is a video game, performed from miles, or sometimes continents away. We have laser-guided munitions and pinpoint accurate bombs and armor that protects our soldiers on the ground from injury. While I think these are all good things, I think they’ve also insulated us from the horrors of war, and war ought to be horrible. There should be tons of casualties. We should be bringing our men and women in uniform home in body bags. If we did, we’d think twice about going to war in the first place. We’d think about keeping them out of harm’s way. In WWII, more than 407,000 American soldiers died. In Iraq, that number was 3528. Sure, that’s a great thing, but people were screaming when a few soldiers got killed because of an IED. Casualties aren’t an expected consequence of war these days, but instead of heralding those soldiers who went above and beyond the call of duty as the true heroes, everyone is a hero, just like every kid who attends a sporting event gets a trophy. It doesn’t mean anything anymore.
I’m entirely fine with heroes, true, honest, legitimate heroes. I am not fine with saying that anyone who puts on a funny hat has to be called a hero because the majority of them simply don’t qualify and I think most in the military today know it. A lot of them are embarrassed to be called heroes. They don’t like it. They know it’s not true. When they legitimately have that Medal of Valor on their chest, fine, they’re a hero, but I’m afraid our increasingly liberalized society is going to start demanding that everyone gets a Purple Heart, just for playing. That way everyone can be a hero and not have to earn it!