Hero is a term that gets thrown around a lot thesedays. No one fully respects the people, dead or living, who made great sacrificesfor our country. Jessica Lynch, contrary to what you hear on the media or fromthe government, is not what I would call a national hero.
The real reasonI raise this point is that in November NBC aired "Saving JessicaLynch." But what did she actually do? She got ambushed and captured. She wasat the wrong place at the wrong time, and now she's a national hero. I thinkthere is something wrong about lumping her together with Sergeant Alvin York,General Joshua Chamberlin, and Captain Stephen Phillis. And what about the deathof Chief Warrant Officer Bruce Smith? Lynch's hollow hero status degrades themand everything they accomplished.
To me, the United States government waslooking for a hero and picked the wrong person. Probably the noblest thingJessica Lynch did was start a memorial fund for her friend who was killed inIraq. To accomplish this, she sold her story to Knopf for a $1 million advance[to be shared with author Rick Bragg].
What do other people do whenthey're honored as heroes? They receive their medals, quite humbly, give a fewpress conferences, and then go on their way. Does the name Pfc. Patrick Millersound familiar? No? He was awarded the Silver Star for "saving the lives ofLynch and others in her capture" (CNN.com). To me, a true hero would neverthink of themselves before others. They would request that their fellow soldiersbe given the same honor, refusing theirs if that did not happen.
To me, ahero should be humble in whatever he or she does. Heroes should never expect tobe honored for something they were trained to do - like my uncle, Captain StephenPhillis. He only wore his wings and jump wings on his uniform because to him,they were the only things that mattered. Everything else he was awarded came fromsimply doing his job. He also conducted combat search and rescue for his wingman,First Lieutenant Robert Sweet, when he was shot down in Iraq during the Gulf War.In doing so, my uncle was also shot down and received the Silver Star, thenation's second highest award for bravery. I know he would not have wanted it.All the soldiers, sailors, and airmen do is their job as best they can.
All they do is what they have been trained for, like Sergeant Alvin York. Backin World War I, his unit was stuck in a trench pinned down by a German machinegun. York charged the nest himself and saved everyone in his unit. This earnedhim the Congressional Medal of Honor and a spot as role model of allnoncommissioned officers in the armed forces. Or General Joshua Chamberlin, who,while defending Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg, was runningshort of ammunition and so ordered a bayonet charge down the hill, completelytaking the rebel forces by surprise and winning the day.
To me thesoldiers who saved Jessica Lynch are the true heroes of her story, and theyreceived little recognition. It is this everyday courage that makes our armedforces the best. Most heroes are normal people with humbleupbringings.
Jessica Lynch is the complete opposite of my description of ahero. She did her job, sure, but I fail to see is why she was so highlyrecognized for getting captured.
Has our sense of a true hero crumbled somuch that we recognize a prisoner of war over countless soldiers who fought anddied to preserve our freedoms? Jessica Lynch is not what I would call a nationalhero, and I think our government and country needs to think about this the nexttime they try to pin the title on someone.
Editor's Supplement:From a New York Times (11/8/03) article:
"In her first publicstatements since her rescue in Iraq, Jessica Lynch criticized the military forexaggerating accounts of her rescue and recasting her ordeal as a patrioticfable.
"Asked by the ABC News anchor, Diane Sawyer, if themilitary's portrayal of the rescue bothered her, Ms. Lynch said: 'Yeah, it does.It does that they used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff. Yeah, it's wrong'... Ms. Lynch says others' accounts of her heroism often left her feeling hurtand ashamed because of what she says was overstatement."
About therescue mission, Ms. Lynch said, "'I don't know why they filmed it, or whythey say the things they did, you know, all I know was that I was in thathospital hurting. I needed help' ... 'From the time I woke up in that hospital,no one beat me, no one slapped me, no one, nothing,' Ms. Lynch told Sawyer,adding, 'I'm so thankful for those people, because that's why I'm alivetoday.'"
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.