Gone; but not forgotten

Our nation was built on the shoulders of those who would not be satisfied with anything less than absolute freedom. Throughout America’s history, great men and women have broken the mold to take a stand for what they believed to be right. The whole premise of this great union is that injustice will not be tolerated, for us or for any other nation. The definition of “hero” is a simple one: a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. Heroes have filled our past; George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. are characters whom are known worldwide for their courageous actions and respectable qualities. Yes, these are heroes to the world; but America is the home of the common man, the melting pot of the world. It is not these figureheads of the American way that make us what we are; it is the everyday person, who finds inside himself the strength, courage, and bravery, to do the impossible. You ask me if America still has heroes. My answer is yes. I have met some of them.

I was involved in the national history fair contest a few years back. I was doing an individual performance about D-day and the ensuing fight for Normandy. I had the opportunity to interview three World War Two veterans. One of the men really stuck out in my mind. He was a paratrooper who landed in Normandy with the 101st Airborne Division. The look in his eye while he talked to me was one I will never forget. He fought to keep composure as he told his story. He was nineteen when he enlisted in the Airborne. The Airborne was a new branch of the Army. They parachuted out of planes in order to land behind the enemy lines and disrupt their activity. He made his first jump in the greatest invasion in the history of warfare. When he stepped up to the open door and looked out, he saw tracers narrowly missing the plane. He saw paratroopers from other planes being shot as they slowly descended toward the enemy infested ground below. This is when he looked inside of himself and found out who he really was. All of the training and preparation came down to this one second. He said he took one breath, accepted death for his country, and stepped out of the plane. As he recalls this sixty two years later, one can still see the same fire that must have been in his eyes on June 6th, 1944. America still has heroes.
Not only are heroes people one only hears stories of, but they are all around us. My own great uncle played his part as well. Vernon Rader was only twelve when America entered World War Two. By the time he was sixteen the war looked to soon be over. He wanted to have a role in the war against the Axis powers. Little did he know that he would find himself in the fiercest fighting of the war. He was placed in the thick of the Battle of the Bulge. He fought for only two weeks in the bitter Russian winter when he was captured. He spent the rest of the war a prisoner. A seventeen year old boy put his fear aside and faced one of the most elite fighting forces in the world in one of the most hellish places on earth. He buried all thoughts of himself as he took his place in line. Most of all, he held his head high as he was in the POW camp for nearly a year. He did not let his age stand in the way of him doing what he knew was right. America still has heroes.

During my research for History Day, I was able to interview a man who personally knew the man of whom I will speak. Charles Albury was born in 1920 and lived a very quaint life in Miami, Florida. He joined the army in 1943 and was chosen to join an elite unit. All he was told was that he would be taking place in a revolutionary experiment that could save the war. His unit was taken to Wendover Air Field in Utah, where they were trained on certain types of weaponry and tests. He said he had no clue as to the scope of what he would be doing. On August 9th, 1945 he was briefed on what they had been training for. He was to drop an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. He had seen one of these bombs used before and seen its devastating effects. The thought of dropping one of those on a city of 300,000 people devastated him. Still, he got in his plane and took off. He told the man I interviewed the thoughts that were running through his head. At first he considered ways not to have to be the one to drop the bomb. He didn’t follow through with his plan. He put his own desires out of his mind and did the one thing he never wanted to do. With tears in his eyes but determination in his heart and mind, he dropped the bomb that ended World War II. America still has heroes.

These three men are a part of what has been called “the greatest generation”. This group of people had few selfish thoughts and thought only of what is best for their country. Many have said that since this period in time, our country has been going downhill, that people no longer believe in anything. I disagree. As I and people like me reflect on individuals such as these, we look around and see that people are taking their place in line behind these brave souls. The New York City firefighters on September 11th, 2001, our soldiers who bravely place the good of our nation above their own lives, and the leaders of our nation, who face all opposition to do what they feel is right for the country. As men of the greatest generation die every day, and the number get fewer and fewer, it is up to our generation to make sure, as Francis Scott Key put it, “that our flag was still there”. It is up to my generation to keep the flag flying high. We must take the place of those who came before us and let freedom ring. America will have heroes.





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lilmissravenclaw said...
Feb. 1, 2010 at 8:43 am
Wow! That was wonderful. I'm happy to see that there are still heroes in this world, even if they are reaching the end of their lives. I loved it!
 
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