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The Story of Heroes

Yesterday had us all thinking about our Veterans. I’m grateful for their service and sacrifice; and I suspect there is more for me to learn from veterans.  So I set out on a hunt, reading veteran stories. I kept wondering why.  Why do they do it?  Why do they sign up to sacrifice everything, if that’s required?

Alvin York became famous for his assault on a German machine gun nest in World War I.  His medal of honor citation reads in part like this:

After his platoon had suffered heavy casualties and three other non-commissioned officers had become casualties, Cpl. York assumed command. Fearlessly leading seven men, he charged with great daring a machine gun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machine gun nest was taken. . .

You're probably familiar with John Basilone's heroics in World War II on the Solomon Islands. The Marine Gunnery Sergent was awarded the Medal of Honor for halting a Japanese assault during the Battle of Guadalcanal. His medal of honor citation reads in part like this:

In a fierce frontal attack with the enemy blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. Basilone's sections, with its gun crews, was put out of action, leaving only two men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived. A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners...

You may not recognize the name Leigh Ann Hester whose medal of honor citation reads:

 Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, a National Guard member, played a critical role in wielding off a     50-insurgent attack 12 miles southeast of Baghdad in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Thanks to her valorous marksmanship and leadership in battle, Hester earned an honorable position in military history books as the first Army woman awarded the Silver Star for valor since World War II.

A common thread woven through out these stories is determination, a single-mindedness in their purpose.  They have resolved to stay at their post or stay engaged in the battle or stay with the mission. It strikes me that quitting is a luxury that veterans never have.  I found myself asking, “What am I doing in my life with so much determination that I would never quit?”  If you have the luxury of quitting, look for something more.

These stories demonstrate that Veterans have committed to something bigger than themselves.  They serve a cause that is beyond them, their families and even their friends.  They give themselves to an objective that is so large, no one person can make it happen.  What movement am I a part of that can’t be accomplished without a much larger force? If all you have going in your life can be accomplished by you, your vision isn’t big enough!

Notice that these medal honorees did not serve alone.  Every one of them was a part of a unit — a division, a regiment, a battalion, a company, a platoon, etc.  Team work is essential and life-preserving.  A team comes together to achieve a common goal. We can accomplish more together than we can on our ownIf you are operating alone, it's time to look for a team.

Leave a comment below and tell us what you’ve learned from the veterans in your life?