I was reading a very insightful piece over at Andrew Sullivan’s Blog, the Daily Dish and one of his reader’s comments there really rang true with me. Here’s part of what they wrote:
Real heroes don’t go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about their own heroism…The heroes I knew in my youth – the guys who came back from WWII and Korea – never said a word about it. Our family friend Ernie, who had been a German POW for three years after being shot down; the only way I ever learned about that is that someone else told me – not Ernie. My dad – 100 missions over North Africa, Italy, France and Germany, three confirmed kills and the Distinguished Flying Cross – never a word about the war; no, I take that back: on his deathbed, when we were alone, he struggled up out of his delirium for a moment and looked at me and said “War is the stupidest thing human beings do.” Almost the last thing he ever said.
My grandfather fought in World War II. He saw action and plenty of it. But he NEVER talked about it. I was never able to get him to talk about his experiences. Like the father of Sullivan’s very astute commenter, I don’t think my grandfather ever saw war and killing as something to be proud of. Nor would he have ever bragged about being a combat soldier, much less a POW, or used that fact in any way whatsoever for personal gain. Fortunately he was never a POW, just a grunt who went to Europe, carried a gun, followed orders and displayed bravery on a daily basis that I hope never to have to display ever in my life.
From that perspective, McCain’s recent use of his POW status in this presidential election, particularly for such menial reasons, is a crass and unheroic act. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a good deal of war veterans out there who are, if not offended, at least disgusted by it.
Undoubtedly they feel much like the commenter’s father. His words are simple and perfect and should never, ever be forgotten:
“War is the stupidest thing human beings do.”
I’m just sayin’…