Welcome back to the scuttlebutt, grab a chair, get a drink, let’s talk.
The picture above is a normal sight every year I’ve been alive. Boy Scouts placing flags at the graves of our heroes.
Until this year it was a normal sight anyway. This year, the VA has declared the national cemeteries off-limits. “Closed for ‘Rona!”
Ah, the US Veteran’s Administration…Doing for Vets what the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) has done for the Indians since 1824! Soldier, if you didn’t die for your country, don’t worry, we’ll help you out!
We’re told that the risk to people visiting national cemeteries is just too high. Let me tell you, with the exception of Arlington, and on a really nice day Punchbowl, there’s no safer place to be crowd wise than a National Cemetery. Now don’t mistake me, I’m not advocating you all go out and march around the “hallowed dead”. I don’t like it, I’ve got too many friends there, and those that don’t have anyone there, probably just won’t understand even if they do go march the bounds. So no, I’m not saying we should all go visit a national cemetery.
There is one category that I advocate doing that. Politicians! If you’re an elected official you should be forced to walk Arlington annually. If you’re unable to walk that far, an escort should be provided. That escort should be a mid-grade enlisted man from your home district, he should wear no name tape, and he should be told to “speak freely” as he wheels you around that grim monument to the cost of war. I want this not because I hate politicians (that’s just a cherry on the sundae) I want this so that politicians understand what happens when they fuck up.
Still, there’s one day a year set aside for the remembrance of my shipmates, my Dad’s tentmates, my Grandfather’s squaddies, my Great Grandfather’s trench mates, his dad’s Horse brothers… This day was always greeted in my life by parades, speeches, some method of remembrance… I have marched in dozens of those parades, as a boy scout, a little leaguer, a sailor, a cop or a federal manager.
Now, I’ll agree that the crowds of a parade, or the speechifying of some minor politician, or the survivor of some foreign war, may not be a good idea this weekend. But to tell the BSA that they can’t put flags on the graves? Let me give the VA a great big FUCK YOU for that!
We always talk at this time of year about heroes. That word has been thrown around a lot in the last couple of months, and frankly, cheapened.
Surviving doesn’t make you a hero.
Just doing your job doesn’t make you a hero.
Being a hero means doing what others couldn’t or wouldn’t do, at the great risk of your life. Often it means giving your life, that others may live.
Are there real no-shit heroes in the civilian world? Oh yes.
The doctor that is out of PPE, but continues treating patients, because they ARE going to die if he doesn’t.
The Nurse that’s dead on her feet, is pretty sure she’s sick herself but is still keeping people sicker than herself alive.
The guy that pulls over his car to pull someone out of a burning wreck.
The dude that stands in front of the gang of shitheads about to gutter stomp a kid for being the wrong race at the wrong time, and says “to get to him, you are going to have to go through me.”
Some cops, some firemen, some paramedics.
But now we’re hearing that “just going to work” makes you a hero. Just living through these times makes you a hero.
In the words of the commercial, “that’s not the way this works, that’s not the way any of this works.”
When everyone is a hero, nobody is… and maybe that’s the plan. Cheapen the word until it’s meaningless.
Well, No. Not on my watch. Just living through something doesn’t make you a hero. Heroism is what my English teacher back in the day called “an active verb”. You have to do something affirmative, and as I mentioned, it has to be at the risk of your beloved ass.
Frankly, we don’t need or want everyone to be a hero, because far too often it comes with that nasty “P” word… Posthumous.
We do need people that will do their job, even when that job is hard, when it sucks, even when it’s risky, because LIFE is risky, you’re not going to survive it. Every day, and in almost everything you do, there is an element of risk. That’s never stopped you before, don’t let it do so now. Just know that just doing that, doesn’t make you a hero.
It does make you an adult, and not a child. And that, we DO need.
If the time comes to be a hero, you’ll know it, you’ll want to piss yourself, maybe you actually will. And either you’ll freeze up, you’ll run away/turn away, or you’ll answer the bell.
It’s not something to go looking for, that’s not heroism, that’s just stupidity. Hopefully, you’ll never be presented with that test. In the unlikely event that you are, I hope you pass it, even if it means dying because there are worse things in the world than dying, and those include living with the knowledge that you failed that test when it mattered most.
In case you’re wondering, no I didn’t fail.
I know this was a grim piece, and I’m sorry… this weekend often brings that out in me.
Keep your head on a swivel, and watch out for yourself and your shipmates.
Until next time I remain,
Yours in service.