In the wake of 9-11, with thousands of American servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, patriotism skyrocketed in the United States – and rightfully so after the shabby treatment of the Vietnam veterans during and after their war. People talk about and honor the heroes of the armed forces without really thinking about what it takes to be a hero. For many Americans heroism is an abstract ideal, but heroes, in reality, pay a heavy price for heroism.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a dinner with the Stephens County Historical Society at the Currahee Military Museum in Toccoa, Georgia. Without intending to, the speaker, Ms. Cindy Tatum, reminded everyone present of the price paid for heroism. She told the story of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment: born in Toccoa, reared on the battlefields of Europe, and now recently returned from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 506th recently visited Toccoa to run the mountain. That’s Currahee Mountain, made famous in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. After returning to their home station of Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, they held a Dining In. During the dinner a tribute was paid to fallen comrades. As a part of that tribute, photos of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are shown, the name and rank announced - the mood is somber, the room grows quiet. As a photo flashes on the wall - from the back of the room - a small child’s voice cries out…
And now you know what the price of heroism and freedom really is.