You Keep Using That Word – Who is a Hero?

*Stink! Jamie the Very Worst Missionary stole my line before I could publish it. Great blog about the word #blessed read it here

In January 1991, I lay in hospital bed in Naval Medical Center Portsmouth recovering from a belly wound brought about by “friendly fire”.  My perfectly healthy gall bladder decided to go to war with the rest of my immune system.  Ultimately the immune system destroyed the rebelling organ which required an extraction by Naval Surgeons.  This unfortunate situation left me in a bed watching CNN as Coalition forces invaded Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.  Little did I know that just 7 months later, I would be joining them aboard the USS L.Y. Spear (AS-36) and would breathe the smoke tainted air that hung above the Persian Gulf .  In October, after a close call navigating heavily mined waters, the ship would drop anchor off Kuwait City and I would accompany my shipmates into the city to embark on several humanitarian rebuilding efforts. In November we would be deployed on a mission to recover sensitive equipment off the coast of Iraq before returning home.

Let Go the Anchor, Kuwait Harbor
Let Go the Anchor, Kuwait Harbor

I don’t let tell this story to bring any sort of glory to myself or to my shipmates.  On the contrary, few of us felt worthy of any such glory.  Most of the people I enlisted with entered Naval service during peace time or at worst, during the end of the Cold War.  We were looking for training, stability, and a paycheck.  Even though there was danger involved, it was just our job and in truth, the risk we were taking was less than it would have been during electrical switchboard testing back in Norfolk.  Sea stories sound really great, because not everyone gets to experience them, but they are nothing more than my perspective of a unique experience.  You have those in your life as-well.

Jump forward 20 years.  That battle crossed the ocean and first responders of the NYFD & NYPD were asked to run into danger to help innocent victims of senseless terrorism.  None of them ever anticipated facing this kind of catastrophe, but duty is a powerful motivator when the chips are down. We have little doubt that these are heroes.

What followed in response to this was a new military build up.  A military that was swelling with young men and women filled with national pride and to be honest … probably a good dose of vengeance as well.  The danger was now real. Not only from the weapons of war, but also from the unseen weapons that attack the mind and the soul.  Some would lose their lives and others would be physically broken beyond repair.  Still other, untouched by physical harm, would have their lives forever altered by the sights, sounds, and smells of war. There is no doubt that these  young men and women entered willingly and made great sacrifices.  But … does this make them heroes?

What really constitutes a hero?  To one a hero may be a mother who sacrificed so her children could go to college, to another, it maybe the image of the father he never met who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.  So what is it that makes a hero? … sacrifice? selflessness? commitment? honor and duty?

So who is a hero? I can’t really tell you how you should define a hero.  I do know that every Veterans Day I am very uncomfortable when I am lumped in with heroes just because I put on a uniform for many years.  On the one hand, I understand and appreciate that people feel honest gratitude for those that served their country to protect the freedoms that we hold dear. Still, there are those out there that spend their whole lives with their noses to the grind stone everyday that will never get even a pat on the back or a word of encouragement for the service to society that they provide …  I am in awe of those who faithfully execute the office of “human” with little acknowledgement from us.

Yes, the military has been instrumental in maintaining our safety and security, but it is not the military that has made it great and it is not the military will spell our demise.  It is the everyday people of our society that have made our nation great and it is the everyday people who will bring it to an end.

Everyone one of us has the opportunity to be a hero. All of us can faithfully answer the human call to be selfless in our dealings with others. There is not one of us that cannot make daily sacrifices that might just benefit someone else. Who among us will take our commitment to our neighbor as seriously as we do to our favorite sports teams?  Is it possible that we could look past the bottom line and honor the duty that God entrusted to us to care for the “least of these” and “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

Who is a hero?

He is the one waiting to shed his light on those around him.

He is the one who does not care that there is no day set aside to honor him.

He loves unconditionally, it is what he was created to do.

He understands it is going to be a fight to get control.

He is powered by love and is undaunted by the task.

He is the image of the Creator.

He is within you.

The everyday hero is buried  deep within each of us. He may be covered by years of crap like bitterness, cynicism, pessimism, selfishness … you know life stains (use to be called sin). The fight is not hopeless though.  Although I seem to forget it now and then, Jesus gave us a way to find the hero and is standing by to help us become heroes.

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Rev 3:17-21)

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