Friday, June 05, 2009

Everyday Heroes

The great American humorist Will Rogers once said, "We can't all be heroes, because somebody has to sit on the curb and applaud when they go by.”

Defining heroes is not as simple as it seems. One way to look at it is to say that everyday heroes are the folks who silently pick up the slack. They are ultimate team players, and in the end, team leaders. The guy who jumps on a grenade in combat to save the lives of the rest of his team is a hero. In the words of Jesus Christ, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." [John, 15:13, KJV]. This is the ultimate, the paragon, the epitome of heroism. This is the measure upon which all heroes are judged. And such are truly heroes.

But so is the guy who, on a long march, shoulders the pack of a guy who is struggling to keep up; and the guy in your berthing compartment who sees you've been on watch all night so he takes care of his morning job, and yours too: the morning sweepdown of the compartment. He doesn't ask, he doesn't tell you about it afterwards, he just takes up the slack.

So, we can have two types of heroes, the courageous ones who do heroic deeds -- and these are the ones we recognize with medals, and ceremonies, and we can have the everyday heroes, those who quietly go about taking up the slack, unobtrusively, seeking neither favor nor recognition. These are the people who Ronald Reagan was referring to in his first Inaugural address when he said, “We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look."

At the Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War, we have looked in the right place.

Steve Burns is a Yahoo specialist, owner of websites and Veterans support groups, who generously lends his expertise and support where and when it is needed. He joined VASVW several months ago, and has become a staple of the group, and recently was named VASVW Chaplain. For his efforts, he rates everyday hero status.

Aletta has done the same. She has been a steady voice of focus when discussions start to go farther afield than is productive. She has the knack of simply restating the subject in a way that brings everyone back to the problem at hand. If someone needs a document, she can usually find it. She is quiet, and unassuming, steady and reliable. For her efforts she rates everyday hero status.

Dave Sanderson, the first President of VASVW, is a steady hand, knowledgeable of people, who very quietly, behind the scenes, picks up the slack for others. For his service and his quiet leadership, he rates everyday hero status.

Tom LaLiberte has quietly created a wonderful website for VASVW [click here to view it], maintaining the pages, expanding the capabilities of the site, and adding much to the general information now available to all who are involved with the Blue Water Navy fight for Agent Orange Veterans benefits. Additionally, he has prevailed upon numerous congressmen to support the HR 2254 legislation, not just his own, but many others. For his dedication and hard work, he rates hero status.

Phil Elliott works hard behind the scenes to see that things work in VASVW. Whether it be a perceived misunderstanding between two members that he helps clear up, or showing folks how to use the Yahoo site extras, to occasionally breaking the seriousness of the discussion with some well timed humor, Phil does it, and does it well. For his quiet service he rates hero status.

Dennis Myers very quietly goes about the work that needs doing, providing suggestions and ideas, and shouldering heavy workloads of contact work. Dennis is unique in doing this, as he does so much, not for himself, but for others, and he does so quietly, behind the scenes, seeking neither thanks nor recognition, just results. In this way he rates hero status.

There are so many more who should be recognized but these six go above and beyond, serving not just VASVW but all Veterans in what they do, everyday, in their own way, quietly, picking up the slack.

Bernard Malamud wrote, “Without heroes, we are all plain people, and don't know how far we can go”. These six show us all the path to how far we can go. They are the ultimate team leaders. Follow them and you will, at some point, meet with success.

Finally, to all of our shipmates in VASVW and the Blue Water fight, here is some wisdom from the great American jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes:

“For I say unto you in all sadness of conviction that to think great thoughts you must be heroes as well as idealists. Only when you have worked alone -- when you have felt around you are a black gulf of solitude more isolating than that which surrounds the dying man, and in hope and despair have trusted to your own unshaken will -- then only can you gain the secret isolated joy of the thinker, who knows that a hundred years after he is dead and forgotten men who have never heard of him will be moving to the measure of his thought -- the subtle rapture of postponed power, which the world knows not because it has no external trappings, but which to his prophetic vision is more real than that which commands an army. And if this joy should not be yours, still it is only thus you can know that you have done what lay in you to do -- can say that you have lived, and be ready for the end."
Fortitudine vincimus.


”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.


  1. Wow...I will say what Steve Urkle says...Did I do that?...Veterans who was in the waters outside VN were expoused to AO...It is only right that they, and other Vets outside VN recieve the care that was promised to them. Right is right..and the AO ACT of 2009 is right.

  2. Thanks for the plug but we all do as we can, since I don't get out much I do searches and web sites.