Often when you read the Papers, you hear various people described as heroes. Jade Goody, Jordan, David Beckham…
Surely we need to go back and look at what a hero really is? Surely a Hero is someone who has gone above and beyond in the call of duty, performed feats of courage and selflessness, particularly someone who has risked or lost their life. It is starting to change, slowly. Look at Wootton Bassett, and the many homecoming parades. It hasn’t quite got through to the Politicians, none of whom I would describe as worthwhile people, let alone heroes.
But at the same time, a Hero doesnt have to be a dashing, stereotypical chisel-jawed soldier straight out of a Mills and Boon book. Normal people can be heroes, if anything, someone having a completely normal and unassuming background makes doing something special even more amazing.
Take Robert Cain, for example. After working for Shell before the war he joined up as an Officer in 1940. Nothing in his past marked him out for anything special. But in the battle of Arnhem in 1944, Cain rose above the pack. In command of the survivors of a Battalion and pissed off at their losses, he took charge of the only remaining anti-tank weapon, knocking out tank after tank until the bombs exploded in his face, wounding him. Not content with that, he soon returned and even though there were no anti-tank weapons left, he picked up a handheld mortar and fired it horizontally. Before withdrawing over the river, he even managed to have a shave. After the war he went back to working for Shell. When he died, his family were astounded to find out that he’d won a Victoria Cross. He just didnt think it was important to tell them.
In modern times, you only have to look at people like Johnson Beharry. Just an ordinary young bloke from Grenada who joined the British Army, he found himself driving a Warrior Armoured Vehicle in southern Iraq when his convoy was ambushed. With bullets pinging around he kept his head out of the drivers compartment, rather than duck back inside, and managed to clear the wreckage and bring the vehicle back to base, even though wounded.
Then theres someone like Richard Winters, from Easy Company of Band of Brothers fame. Whilst maybe not a hero in the traditional sense of the word, look at the men he commanded, from when they joined to when the war finished, and how his leadership brought them on. What they achieved might not have been possible without him, so surely making other people heroes gives him the right to be called one too.
But… and here is the important thing, I think that for every Cain or Beharry, there are hundreds, thousands of people who are heroes in their own right. Ordinary people, like you or me, who had to go and do an unpleasant job, and did it, and went back to their normal lives – or in many cases didnt – with just some medals and memories. And just because they didnt win medals for bravery, it doesnt mean that they weren’t brave. But too often in the History books we only hear about the Generals, or the medal winners. As important or inspiring as they are, they are still only a handful of people. You could never understand the story, the experience of any war or battle by just looking at the person who commanded, or the person who won a medal during it. And think of the people who made it possible for those men to go and do what they did – their friends, families, the people who trained them, supported them. The Soldier is only the very tip of the bayonet.
Most of us aren’t anything like heroes. Most of us won’t even get the chance to prove whether we are or aren’t heroes. But, that doesnt mean we shouldnt appreciate people who do unpleasant but necessary things on our behalf so we can stay safe. If they can give up their lives for us, surely we can give up our thoughts for them. It doesnt matter one bit what you think about the war. We’re so lucky, we must be the first generation for hundreds of years who havent been called up wholesale to fight for out country. Even so, why shouldnt we look into ourselves, and see, that if these people from times gone by can do that, surely we can all do our own little things to help others? Do we measure up?
Surely, its not too much to ask.