Home of the Brave
May 03, 2019
I remember when I was a kid, I had heroes. Bigger than life adults I wanted to be just like. Looking back now, the things they all seemed to share in common was a real sense of love for country, respect for others, smart in the ways of life, and in most cases, hugely talented.
Like every kid, I was a big fan of Roy Rogers; the same with Bob Hope (with whom it was a great honor to appear in a short video when I was much older.) There was also Jack Benny - less a hero maybe, but I loved the way he made my family and me laugh.
Then there were my war heroes. My Uncle Jack served, he was an inspiration. And General Eisenhower; Ike as people called him then. And, of course, there was General Patton. There were a lot more, but the years have pushed them from memory. I’m sorry.
Back then, there were actors who were also war heroes. Big names who went off to war, served honorably, and came back to regain their star status. There was Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, and Henry Fonda. A big one for me was Steve McQueen who didn’t enlist in the Marines till after the war, but stilled proved a big hero when he saved the lives of 5 other Marines during an exercise in the Arctic.
Boy, they were bigger than life and didn’t bat an eye at serving in the military to save the world from Hitler and Hirohito.
I mean, how could you not admire these men. It’s very sad that so many today in Hollywood have lost that love of country and sense of duty and honor.
I really didn’t know it at the time, but lots of brave women also served — not so much in combat, but still in the military, or on assembly lines building the jeeps, tanks and planes that American soldiers used to win the war. As I came to understand their sacrifice, they became heroes of mine too.
Of course every American who wore the USA uniform later became a hero of mine because they loved our country enough to fight and die for the Red, White and Blue. My Great Grandfather, John Philip Sousa wore not only the Marine Corp uniform, but at age 61, he joined the Navy to help raise money for the WWI war effort. Yea, he is certainly a hero of mine. My mother’s father was a GI in WWI and fought in the trenches in France (I can’t even imagine). He brought home a German helmet with a bullet hole through it. He was a crusty old bastard and didn’t hesitate to take his belt to me when he thought I deserved it.
As I got older my heroes started dying off and what’s sad is that most were never replaced. I thought General Schwarzkopf of the 1st Iraqi war was just super. I’d put him in that hero category; yea, I really liked him. John Glenn was a hero, though I wasn’t wild about his politics. All the early astronauts, especially the four men and women who died on The Columbia Space Shuttle; they were certainly heroes.
Ronald Reagan was a hero of mine for his devotion to country. I didn’t always agree with him or his staff, but he certainly makes my hero list.
It seems today that so many of the people we give hero status really aren’t.
People nearly worship musicians, actors, politicians, and internet millionaires, but not because they’ve ever put country over self. In fact, very often it’s just the reverse. They’re admired for putting self over everything else. I admire their success - I even like some of their music or movies, or use their internet apps - but heroes? Forget about it.
Cops and Firefighters are heroes, though they hardly ever receive the attention they deserve. Our men and women in uniform who are serving in some of the worst conditions anywhere in the world are heroes. How can they not be?
There are a few politicians I might call hero. Former Congressman Trey Gowdy from South Carolina is one of them. Here is a man who is not afraid to confront the enemy within and stand tall for his country. Yea, I think he is a current day hero. I’m sorry he resigned from Congress, but I certainly understand.
Damn, I wish there were more.
But to all the heroes that I can remember, and those I can’t, thank you so much for all you have done for our country, for entertaining us, for protecting us, for serving us and for setting the bar so high that attaining hero status is a remarkable achievement.
I just wish that more Americans were half as engaged in the love of country today as past generations were. I’m not quite sure where we took a wrong turn, but it’s sad we did. We are all worse off.
America was never perfect. But it seems less perfect to me today. Rather than singing our National Anthem with pride, our entertainers hold a severed head of our president and stomp on the American Flag.
Our government is nearly dysfunctional. Too many politicians can only make excuses, point fingers, and blame others. They work for control in ways that do mortal harm to the values that we all once took for granted, the values of concern for neighbor, personal honor, and individual dignity.
Maybe that’s the problem. When you take things for granted, you don’t always notice when they’ve slipped away.
In my heart I know those values are not gone for good. We just need to shake off the grime that’s built up over the last couple decades. It may take a major event to wake us up, but I know underneath it all the impulse to heroism is still there. I know it as surely as I know that America is still the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
John Philip Sousa IV is an entrepreneur, political activist, author and accomplished business person. John has worked in the financial services industry for over 40 years, built a highly successful marketing company, ran for congress at age 24, and in 2016 created and led the successful movement to draft Dr Ben Carson into his candidacy for President of the United States. John is author of John Philip Sousa, A Patriot’s Life in Words and Pictures and Ben Carson, RX for America.