Military Service Doesn't Make You A Hero

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William J. Astore, a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, has a healthy respect for anyone who decides to join the Armed Forces. But signing on that dotted line certainly doesn't elevate one to "American Hero," he says.

In a Los Angeles Times op-ed contribution, Astore outlines the case for stripping away the "almost religious veneration" of the U.S. Military.

What's wrong with praising our troops to the rafters and adding them to our pantheon of heroes?

A lot.
By making our military a league of heroes, we ensure that the brutalizing aspects and effects of war will be played down. In celebrating isolated heroic feats, we often forget that war is guaranteed to degrade humanity as well.

When we create a legion of heroes in our minds, we blind ourselves to evidence of destructive, sometimes atrocious, behavior. Heroes, after all, don't commit atrocities.

Astore also describes what it truly means to earn the title: behaving "selflessly, usually at considerable personal risk and sacrifice, to comfort or empower others and to make the world a better place." He adds that "heroes, of course, come in all sizes, shapes, ages and colors, most of them looking nothing like John Wayne or John Rambo or GI Joe (or Jane)."

A Los Angeles Times commenter, though, can't resist making this counterpoint:

Much truth in what you say Colonel, but let me add, the individual who joins up, intentionally putting him or herself in harms way is just a tad more heroic then your average couch potato.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.