Coastal Senior is a monthly periodical published in Savannah, Georgia and circulated throughout the Georgia and South Carolina low country. Bob Mason is its legal columnist.
On a hot and steely south Pacific day 64 years ago 18-year old Ensign John Mason earned a Navy Cross doing some extraordinary things in the cockpit of a Navy Grumman Avenger. To be sure, a hero.
But the thing I loved about my Uncle Jack was that he was one of the gentlest, most self-effacing men I’ve known. The only time I ever pressed him on the particulars of that Navy Cross he chuckled and said, “What I REALLY deserved was a medal for raising five good kids!”
Uncle Jack seemed quite ordinary and spent most of his life, I believe, puzzled by recognition he got for twenty minutes of fancy flying he did as a teen.
I do not believe it is necessary to be recognized to be a hero. I suspect in the military there are many acts of unnoticed bravery for every medal awarded.
Nor, do I believe, is it necessary to do something truly extraordinary to be a hero. We often hear of a parent shelving Big Dreams to work quietly and tirelessly to educate a child and set that son or daughter on a brighter path.
It puzzles me when I hear people moan “where are all the heroes?” because the answer is: They’re all around us. Have you ever noticed that when the times urgently call for sacrifice or leadership (even on a small scale), or some great character, someone always seems to step up? The times and conditions don’t make heroes, because the people that we might eventually call “hero” are already in place.
Thousands of years ago the Greeks and Romans carefully analyzed the characteristics needed to make a “virtue-laden” or virtuous person. The virtues fell under four headings: Prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. The Christians (and maybe others) threw in three more: Faith, hope and charity.
Charity is a big one. Often translated from Latin (caritas) or Greek (agape) as “love”, it is much more than February 14-type Luv. What sets it apart is its sheer intentionality and lack of sentimentality. It’s the “love thy neighbor when tadalafil buy you’d rather punch his lights out” sort of love.
So how does this tie into heroics? The more I ponder it, the more I believe heroes are those who can muster their will to combine caritas with one or two other virtues and apply those to the situation at hand (dramatic or mundane).
As an elder law attorney I get a ringside seat. I have the honor of serving many of these people.
Thus my admiration for the heroes I work with every day. The wife of 55 years who has nursed her husband with Alzheimer’s disease the past several years. The couple that has devoted their entire adult life together to the child with Downs syndrome. The frail 90-year old who has maintained a positive outlook and continues to look at life with wonder.
The spirit of any of these folks would easily fit inside any warrior.
They’re my heroes.