05/29/06 — Next generation: Heroes are those who answer call even when danger looms

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Next generation: Heroes are those who answer call even when danger looms

There are two kinds of heroes.

The first are those who distinguish themselves on the battlefield — often oblivious to the personal danger they face. Some of these heroes lose their lives in the process. They are the men and women we honored today on Memorial Day.

But there are is another group of heroes, too. Well, you could call them potential heroes.

And this weekend, they could be found at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

The graduating Class of 2006 entered the academy during a time when they knew that doing so meant they would be serving their country in combat.

It was after Sept. 11, 2001, and after the start of the Iraqi war, so, by this time, everyone knew that enlisting in the military or heading to a military academy would mean ending up facing the enemy overseas.

And for many of those who enlisted or enrolled that was the goal — to be part of defending the nation against the threat of terrorism in the wake of Sept. 11.

There are many stories of men and women who changed their lives after 9/11. Some gave up other careers to enlist, motivated by a profound patriotism and a shift in priorities born after watching the destruction of the World Trade Center towers and the damage to the Pentagon.

Some of them have already lost their lives in defense of their country.

They are a special breed of hero.

Someone who knowingly steps into harm’s way because of something they believe so strongly that they can do nothing else is a person to be admired.

And while the young men and women who graduated from West Point Saturday have yet to prove themselves on the battlefield, they have already shown that some of their generation is worthy of carrying the mantle of courage, honor and responsibility.

They have reminded us all that sense of duty has not been relegated to the stories of World War II’s Greatest Generation — that perhaps there is another crop of heroes waiting in the wings.

Today we honored those who lost their lives fighting for freedom. How fitting that on the same weekend, we should look to the future and a group of young people ready to carry on their commitment to preserving freedom at home and abroad.

Published in Editorials on May 29, 2006 10:48 AM