By Sal Giarratani
NO NEED FOR ANY HERO WORSHIP
I enlisted in the United States Air Force right after graduating from Boston English High School and lately when I go to public events, someone at the podium is always asking veterans in the audience to stand and everyone starts clapping for them like conquering heroes. I don’t know any vet who calls himself a hero. I joined up to avoid getting drafted like most of my friends. We didn’t do it to be heroes. We did it because if drafted we could end up in the Army or even worse the Marines. I remember being at Boston Army Base ready to be sworn into the Air Force as US Marines recruiters were scanning the place to ‘draft” Marines off the floor. I started limping like all my friends.
I was thinking about the above because it is almost Veterans Day and it was 50 years ago in November 1966 that I arrived at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas more afraid than courageous.
Back when I was 14 years old my next door neighbor lived an 83 year old guy who went up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt and then re-enlisted for duty in World War I. When I called him a hero, he stopped me. He said the real heroes are always dead heroes. He’s the guy that says real heroes weren’t the John Wayne kind, they were mostly frightened and did their jobs and hoped to live and talk about it. Like he was with me.
I still think that old guy was a hero for loving his country and risking his life for it. He didn’t think so. Real heroes don’t go around gloating. They just thank God they are still alive to tell their stories when the time is right.
Anyone who puts on a military uniform to serve their country is a hero but few have time to call themselves heroes because they survived battle and military life. They know the real heroes are those who gave up their lives so others like themselves could live. They real heroes are never around to thank.
I don’t need people clapping for me. I want people to live their ordinary lives helping others in need. I haven’t the time to be a hero, it gets in the way of my life.