Magazine article VFW Magazine

Battlefield Valor Unrecognized

Magazine article VFW Magazine

Battlefield Valor Unrecognized

Article excerpt

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Does the American public genuinely appreciate heroism in war?

If ever a word was abused, it is hero. The news media's inappropriate application of the term has left Americans dulled. Many citizens are now incapable of defining physical courage.

Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary's first definition of hero is "an illustrious warrior." But that meaning has gone out of fashion in the last 30 years. Opponents of the Vietnam War saw to it that no one who served there could ever be regarded as valorous. Unfortunately, they did their work too well. Consequently, a sizable proportion of our population still doesn't distinguish between the war and the warrior.

And that message has filtered down to youthful Americans. In the 2001 State of Our Nation's Youth survey of 1,000 high school students, for instance, no measurable percentage of them named military personnel as "heroes and role models. Indications are that this has not changed substantially since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Even in that day's wake, soldiers have not replaced society's cultural icons because the nation's collective memory is so short-lived. Rare films like Black Hawk Down and We Were Soldiers, while most welcome, are the exception.

Film critic Michael Medved wrote in USA Today "The yearning for heroes-manly, patriotic, self-controlled-permeates every aspect of our culture at this vulnerable moment in national life, in part because we know we need such servants and protectors." Medved was referring to all those engaged in uniformed public service, including soldiers. …

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