My step-father was a World War II combat medic. In a strange land on the other side of the world, a bullet wound spilling blood onto the ground and the sounds of gunfire and artillery shells exploding all around you, his was the face leaning over your wound, hands desperately trying to stop the bleeding. His was the voice saying “hang in there” and “hold on,” shaking from the strain but firm in its resolve.
These are the sights and sounds of heroism, his furrowed brow and hoarse words.
Across the row from me in a sterile office building sits a man recently retired from the Missouri National Guard. His deployments include Kosovo, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. In Baghdad, his job description was simple – get stuff — but the reality of such a task couldn’t be more difficult.
In a war-torn country with road-side bombs and extremist-led beheadings, simply selling goods to “the enemy” means possible death or imprisonment. It was not uncommon for an Iraqi-born supplier to suddenly leave the country, fleeing from those who would label him a traitor to his homeland.
It was one of those brave Iraqi citizens who found himself struggling to gain entry to the United States, the same country for which he had risked everything to help in a time of war. The Guardsman – let’s call him John — wrote a simple letter confirming the man’s efforts assisting American troops and endorsing his family’s refugee request.
The letter made the difference, and the Iraqi family was allowed to seek refuge in the United States. But John’s assistance did not end there.
Months later, he and his wife visited the Iraqi family and helped them “settle in.” They brought with them church-funded assistance, money to help pay for things like cleaning products and food and clothing and furniture. They took them shopping at the local Wal-Mart, and offered general assistance getting acclimated to life in a foreign land.
John, and his wife, walked with them, talked with them, and offered their time and their friendship.
These are the sights and sounds of heroism, their hearts set on service and their words filled with compassion and comfort.
Tom Brokaw named my step-father and others like him The Greatest Generation. He wasn’t wrong. The perseverance, strength, and dedication shown by those men and women are legendary, and hard to find in subsequent generations. But it is not extinct.
It lives on in those called to serve in our armed forces. They are the greatest among us, these human beings who offer their lives in defense of our lifestyle and then come home and dedicate themselves to showing the same bravery and compassion in our own backyards. They are the leaders in our communities, in our churches, and in our homes. They step into the breach and hold fast, dedicating themselves to fifty-year marriages – as my step-father did before his wife succumbed to cancer – and helping those in desperate need.
These are the acts of heroism, and they belong to the greatest citizens among us, the returning veterans of our armed forces.
This post was brought to you by Kevin Reynolds of Cards ‘N Stuff
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