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What makes a hero?

By Tim Simpson
I was speaking with a man the other day and he was telling me about his time in Vietnam. Needless to say I was captured by the memories of this older man as he began to tell me his first hand experiences, and as I looked into his eyes as he spoke I could see the reflection of the time that had long passed returning to him as if the memories were as fresh today as they were the day that the first occurred. He told me some things that I had never truly thought about before.

He said “when you first go in and you know you are going to war you’re just about afraid of everything when you first get there, you’re in a foreign land first and foremost and then after a while you start to worry about when you will die because you hear rumors and see others dying around you and you hear about other people that are killed and you know it will only be a matter of time before it gets to you. Then you start settling in and not really caring what happens to you because you have just accepted it and then when your time is almost up the fear sets back in as it was when you first stepped foot in the place, you begin to think about dying on the last day of your tour, or dying while leaving all these thoughts keep running through your head as your final day draws near. ” I asked him if he volunteered or was he drafted and his reply was, “well I will tell you this you can probably go down to the train station and still see my boot marks at the platform where they had to drag me to the train,” he said with a chuckle.

Time is moving so fast and everyone has their own opinions about war and soldiers, but the generation of soldiers during world war two are all but gone, I was privileged to have a world war two veteran as one of my closest friends and he would beguile me with stories of how when he was flying in the air force his plane was shot down and forever had a leg injury because of it, he walked with a cane as far back as I knew him, I met him in or around 1983 I was only around 7 or 8 when we met he became close friends with my family. I grew up around him and he would tell me stories about being in Germany just after the war and how that they never saw themselves as heroes, however putting your very life on the line to protect other people, well that is the very definition of hero in my book.

My friend would scoff when I mentioned the word “hero”, he always said “we just did what we had to do it was our job,” but there was so much more to it and if you ever get the chance to sit down and talk with a veteran listen to the stories, because they survived odds that are immeasurable and their real life stories are better than watching any movie, or playing the most realistic war game money can buy-just something to ponder.

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