C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity begins by talking about the morphing of the term “gentleman” from a specific description to an almost useless compliment (if you are unfamiliar with Lewis’ argument take a quick peek here but come back). I fear at times that the same thing might be said of the word “hero.” I don’t often mention my near-cringe when I hear the term. It is used much in our day to talk about men and women who serve our country’s military. Many who serve and have served are heroes. I know that. But when everyone is a hero, no one is. Just like calling everyone a gentleman dilutes and ultimately destroys that word’s meaning.
This weekend is Veterans Day. I think about my paternal grandfather, John Robey Clark. He was twenty years older than Grandma so I never knew him. He served in Battery B of the Third Field Artillery of the Ohio National Guard which became the 136th Field Artillery during World War I. He served from July 21, 1917 to April 10, 1919 when he was honorably discharged as a private. Not a private first class. Not a medal to his name (that I can find). He came home and started life anew.
But he served faithfully and did his duty. He sacrificed two years of his life, much of it in the mud and muck and noise of France. He wasn’t really a hero. But he served as thousands and thousands of American men and women have – without reward or recognition, without drama or wounds.
I am grateful for those who served heroically… who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms and security and that of others… for the heroes whose stories inspire us still. But I am equally grateful for those veterans like Grandpa Clark who served well and did their duty. Our greatness is built as much upon their quiet, even boring sacrifices as upon those who gave their all. May we serve in peace and war as faithfully.
Thanks to all this week before Veterans Day!