May 16, 2004
On Heroes

Vietnam did many things to this country. Some good, some bad, all painful. Most of all, it destroyed respect for soldiering as a profession. Conventional wisdom now says you join the military for an exciting job, for an easier way into college, for direction and discipline in your life. Today we never seem to even consider people would join because they want to be a soldier. A warrior. Someone who wants to be on the front line, who wants to serve their country by dancing on the knife edge of history.

Are all soldiers like that? Hardly. But there are many more than you'd think. It makes far too many effete intellectuals uncomfortable to think that there are people who would enjoy soldiering for its own sake. That's why Nightline made heroic national headlines with its Vietnam-retread "roll call of the dead", but accounts of living soldier's heroic deeds must languish in obscurity.

Maybe it's better this way. Maybe we should follow the liberal idea of war as nothing more than institutional, legalized murder. Maybe we should puzzle over, discount, fear (and fear for) those who would want to participate. Certainly, glorification has gotten far more nations in trouble. But I think perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, when the only real way a soldier can become famous is as a flag-draped box, a single forlorn picture in a paper, a name read off by a sobbing commentator. Why not read off a list of soldiers who did their duty with honor, who survived amazing acts of bravery?

Why must we only feel comfortable honoring soldiers when they're dead?

Posted by scott at May 16, 2004 09:51 AM

eMail this entry!

Great idea!Great post!

Posted by: Pat on May 16, 2004 04:33 PM

My (rather cynical) thought is that it has to do with the politization of the war itself. If the media posted stories of individual soldier's acts of heroism and/or kindness, people would start to think that the war in Iraq is a good thing. Since the liberals in the media can't stand that, we get the heroic death - which makes people wonder why such good young people have to die for no good reason.

This is why I hate the media (at least one reason...)

Posted by: ron on May 16, 2004 09:30 PM

When was the last time you were standing at the airport welcoming home our military that WALKED off the planes!?
It is the media that does the "glorification", don't you lump me in with them. I was there when our guys came back from Desert Shield/Storm; I know some of them. And I know some of them over there now. My hat is off to all of them, my heroes, living or dead; at least they are serving their country. Can you say that?

Posted by: Cindy on May 16, 2004 10:42 PM

I wore a copper bracelet all through the Vietnam War with the name of a POW engraved on it. I felt such relief and pride as I watched him walk down the ramp of one of the planes when some of the POWs were release and came home his name was Lt. Rice. I still grieve for the ones who did not come home including the 20 year old brother of a good friend who was with his brother when the died the day after my friend got to Vietnam. I found his name of that big black wall and still cry thinking about it. Old men plan wars, the young men and women fight and die. I have the right the be against this war but never against the men and women who are serving and giving their lives.

Posted by: Pat on May 17, 2004 02:00 AM

I understand what Ron is saying and in no way does he indicate that he is anything but support of the soldiers.

Posted by: Pat on May 17, 2004 02:02 AM

Absolutely I support the soldiers. In fact, I was in the Air Force for 6 years prior to getting out. In my family, we've had a person in the military in EVERY SINGLE CONFLICT since the Revolutionary War. I fully support our troops and spend quite a lot of time on this and other websites supporting them. I'll continue this trend as long as required.

Posted by: Ron on May 17, 2004 08:25 AM

Prestige of the military as profession had been in decline before Vietnam--I thinki t was the grim slog that was Korea built the coffin, and the blind stupidity of the old men, the generals, in prosecuting the Vietnam war put the lid on. Plus the way the draft could be gamed, I think it made us all ethically queasy.

Posted by: liz on May 17, 2004 11:55 AM
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