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25Apr/12Off

Not the glittering weapon fights the fight, but rather the hero’s heart. Gallery of Heroes: The Beginning

Posted by Knitebane

Lately I'm seeing something that bothers me.

The word "hero" gets tossed about rather carelessly these days. I hear it applied to cops, teachers and soldiers. The other day I heard it applied to 911 operators.

Let's get something straight. You don't get to be a hero by belonging to a group. No one is born a hero. Dying doesn't make you a hero. Suffering doesn't make you a hero. Nor does being wounded. Or being captured or imprisoned or tortured by the enemy.

A hero is someone that who regardless of almost certain death or grievous harm to himself intentionally and consciously makes the decision to do something so that others may be spared.

Getting up and putting on a uniform doesn't count toward that. Just because you are at risk of harm doesn't make you a hero. Hell, getting out of bed at all is a risk. To call someone a hero for just doing their job cheapens the word until it is almost meaningless.

There's nothing shameful in not being a hero. There is value in hard work, difficult work and especially in thankless work. All of those are deserving of praise.

But heroism is something else.

Starting today I'm going to post profiles of people who have earned the label. I'll post these pretty much weekly, more when an opportunity arises to showcase someone especially deserving.

This first entry would be 94 years old this Saturday, April 28th 2012. Instead he coughed out his life near Munda on the island of New Georgia in the south Pacific. And he died a hero.

Roger Wilson Young had suffered a head injury while playing basketball that permanently damaged his vision and hearing. Believing that his physical ailments would preclude him from service with the U.S. Army, Young joined the Ohio National Guard in 1938.

During his service his eyesight and hearing gradually worsened. When his unit was activated in 1940 as the fears of war in Europe worsened Young volunteered as a small arms instructor, a role that would earn him promotions to corporal and then sergeant.

But just before his unit was to land on New Georgia, Young decided his impaired senses would interfere with his ability to lead men into combat. He asked for a reduction to private. His request was met with concern that he was malingering and he was sent for physical evaluation. The medical report indicated that he was nearly completely deaf and it was recommended that he be sent to a hospital for evaluation for his fitness for duty. Young begged to remain with his unit and eventually his request was approved.

A week later, on July 31, 1943, Roger W. Young died in combat. He was short, had poor eyesight and was nearly deaf. Pictures of him show him as a cheerful if unremarkable fellow.

An unlikely hero. But a hero just the same.

The citation on Sergeant Roger W. Young's Medal of Honor reads as follows:

On 31 July 1943, the infantry company of which Pvt. Young was a member, was ordered to make a limited withdrawal from the battle line in order to adjust the battalion's position for the night. At this time, Pvt. Young's platoon was engaged with the enemy in a dense jungle where observation was very limited. The platoon suddenly was pinned down by intense fire from a Japanese machinegun concealed on higher ground only 75 yards away. The initial burst wounded Pvt. Young. As the platoon started to obey the order to withdraw, Pvt. Young called out that he could see the enemy emplacement, whereupon he started creeping toward it. Another burst from the machinegun wounded him the second time. Despite the wounds, he continued his heroic advance, attracting enemy fire and answering with rifle fire. When he was close enough to his objective, he began throwing handgrenades, and while doing so was hit again and killed. Pvt. Young's bold action in closing with this Japanese pillbox and thus diverting its fire, permitted his platoon to disengage itself, without loss, and was responsible for several enemy casualties.

The awarding of the Medal of Honor was, of course, posthumous. Sergeant Young was buried on New Georgia and in 1949 his remains were returned to the United States and buried in McPherson Cemetery in Clyde, Ohio.

Sergeant Roger W. Young was the subject of a ballad of some popularity in the late 1940's and Robert A. Heinlein named the transport ship TCFT Roger Young after him in his novel "Starship Troopers".

He was a hero. Before you apply that word to someone, think about what Roger Young did. Consider if the person you are talking about comes anywhere close to the kind of courage and willingness to sacrifice that Sergeant Young displayed.

Then find another word. This one's taken.