Called to do heroic things

by | Nov 1, 2019 | Editorial

Olive green figures cover the flat expanse in attack formation. Some lay prone with bipod-supported M-16s and some aim their rifles off-hand. Some shoulder bazookas while others kneel on one knee, perpetually holding a mortar round that will never drop into the tube. There’s also a couple of machine-gunners on the flanks and a quartet of grenade throwers front and center.
My warriors are ready for battle.
I lay prone as well, getting a soldier’s-eye view of the situation as my seven-year-old mind strategizes troop movement under the dinner table and back toward the fridge. I’ve got one man left to place on the kitchen floor. He grips a pistol in his fingerless fist while peering back and beckoning the troops forward with his other hand. He is undergunned but bristling with courage. I stare into his plastic expression and the force of his gravitas stares back at me with sightless eyes. He’s a man of action depicted in an inanimate figurine.
He is all I want to be.
Those toy army men were an obsession. It was kind of a weird obsession given the circumstance. My closest blood relative with a military record is an uncle who died before my mother was born. I was never into violence as a kid. Small, quiet, and a late bloomer, I was not a fighter. I grew up with guns, but guns were for hunting —period. I never liked loud noises or taking orders, either.
I was gripped by the romanticization of war as a child born into a relatively peaceful time in our nation’s history. That romanticization stands in stark contrast to the realities of war, something I never faced in real life. But I have listened to the stories. I’ve heard the truly horrifying tales of men facing life and death situations, of friends lost and enemies killed, and of the heavy toll exacted by each battlefield decision on the mind, heart, and soul of the soldier.
I’ve wondered what I would do in those circumstances. I’ve wondered if I would have what it takes. And I’m humbled by those who, whether by choice or by draft, found themselves in those moments we would all rather not think about.
On this Veterans Day, just as I’ve done on many others, I will make time to think deeply on the price paid by all of those who served and came back home. I’ll think of the soldier not as a hero, but as a person, someone just like me, who was called upon to do heroic things.

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