02/08/06 — Real heroism: The concept involves more than mere fame

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Real heroism: The concept involves more than mere fame

One of the saddest facts about today’s society is how few people understand the true meaning of the word “hero.”

We toss it around like it is a title that can be earned in a moment of fame rather than an honor that is conferred after an extraordinary moment of service or selflessness — or a lifetime of achievement.

Many young people talk about pop stars and athletes as heroes, extolling their success on a stage or on a field as a reason to think about emulating their example.

What they don’t understand is that there are thousands of real heroes whose service to their nation and their communities have made it possible for these modern “stars” to be on those stages and fields in the first place.

In today’s edition, the community will say goodbye to someone who really should be emulated — a man who was a decorated war hero. He is one of many men and women who pass each day around this nation without the acknowledgment and thanks they deserve from the communities and nation they have served.

James Hiteshew was one of those men whose military accomplishments were known to his friends and family, but whose service to his country was not something he bragged about or touted to everyone who passed by.

Yet, he is one of thousands of veterans right here in this community, state and nation whose service to his country has helped build a nation of freedom — and protected it from would-be transgressors.

There are other heroes, too. The men and women who are fighting the war against terrorism overseas are the same sort of people to be admired. They also have little interest in trumpeting their own service. After all, most of them say, they are just doing their jobs.

What they are giving is a gift that we can never fully repay.

One of the most important services we could do for our young people is to teach them that “hero” is not a word that should be tossed around with abandon. We could share instead more stories about simple people who helped change the world because of their dedication, courage or simply a refusal to allow their nation or its values to be sullied.

They have changed the course of history — not just the end result of a football or basketball game or the name at the top of the pop charts.

And, maybe, just maybe, if we encouraged more young people to talk about real heroes, we might breed a few more. After all, that is how you change a world — one extraordinary moment of service at a time.

Published in Editorials on February 8, 2006 10:39 AM