On Heroism

11.11.09

Categorie: Bizarre, Diplomacy, Ideas, Zach Rosenberg |

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by ZACH ROSENBERG

Today is Veteran’s Day, when Americans honor their military veterans and the sacrifices they have made. People celebrate in different ways, and as with most holidays, some are more observant than others. I, for example, will write this post, think about those who have made sacrifices on my behalf, make pasta for dinner, and watch an episode or two of Generation Kill. Others are standing in the cold rain in Arlington National Cemetery. Others are on patrol in Afghanistan, where some will likely be bombed or shot at.

Heroism is a nebulous concept of subjective application, but it’s one that many Americans bestow on all U.S. veterans. In addition to praising veterans in my own way, I want to impart my view, which is that being a veteran of military service is not automatic grounds for heroism, and that heroism is not necessarily tied to armed service. Where to draw the line is relative and varies from person to person.

I don’t want to insult or anger anyone, I’m genuinely curious about what people think. I want to put a couple of questions to readers:

What actions define heroism in the service of others? Is it sacrifice or service?

How does the cause served impact the definition? A just vs. a mistaken war? Would a particularly brave Taliban fighter qualify under your definition? Were there more heroes in the Union than the Confederacy?

What level of service does it require? Is it only armed deployment abroad, or would the mail sorting platoon qualify? What about an armed FBI agent? What about an unarmed IRS agent or SEC regulator?

(Painting: Legends of America)

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2 Responses to “On Heroism”

  1. James says:

    I apologize for not going further and answering all your questions. I’m not sure where I heard this next sentence, so sorry for not sourcing. All military personnel (including armed FBI) have written a blank check to their government and people, with the maximum amount being their own life. I am not sure if that makes them a hero or not, but it sure does mean they are putting the interests of others ahead of their own. A hero to me is someone who displays distinguished courage and acts in a selfless fashion. “Mistaken” war or just war, makes no difference in my determination.

  2. Scott says:

    When I was in Marine Corps bootcamp our Drill Instructors told us that a Hero is someone who dies for his country, and that we were to make heroes out of the enemy.

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