During peacetime or wartime, every person who enlists or is drafted into an armed force takes an oath to “… support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies … and … obey the orders of the officers appointed over me … So help me God.”
All members of America’s armed forces receive basic military training so that no matter what their daily job may be in peacetime, they will be able to take up a weapon to “support and defend” if called upon.
Having served in South Korea in 1955-1956, years after the truce had been signed, I am not an actual “war” veteran, but am classified as a Korean War-era veteran. As an Army photographer, I “shot” many people … but only with my camera.
Fast-forward to Sept. 11, 2001, and soon thereafter I found myself and other veterans being referred to as “heroes.” I have felt quite uneasy and undeserving of such praise. I cannot think of one thing that I’ve done that was “heroic.”
There are approximately 40-plus veterans’ organizations in the United States but I joined just two, The Korean War Veterans and The Jewish War Veterans.
In each of them, I have had the honor of meeting some real heroes, who, as soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, have faced and fought the enemy in battle. Some of their stories will eventually appear in this column.
I’m sorry to say that there are some folks, veterans and non-veterans, who are “hero wannabes.” They embellish their service by wearing medals and service ribbons they never earned or were never in service to begin with. Real heroes do not boast.
As for the rest of us true veterans, we are generally not the heroes that others make of us. As veterans, we are just citizens who have had different experiences. Ask us what those were and then you can decide if we are heroes.
I value the training and experience I received in the military and I will forever be grateful for the higher education I received as a benefit of my military service.
I am a veteran, not a hero.