Monday, 25 July 2011

The "H" Word

Father Mychal Judge, NYFD Chaplain
First casualty September 11, 2001
Before a couple of planes hit a couple of buildings in Manhattan, I had never heard a firefighter referred to as a "hero" before. I'm not saying they aren't or weren't, I had just never heard it said. The title has since been bestowed on military casualties in Canada's latest war, and the highway between Trenton and Toronto renamed the Highway of Heroes in honour of the route they take on their final journey after repatriation at CFB Trenton.

I have no argument with any of this, and I hesitate to even mention it for fear my words might be misunderstood.  John Allemang of the Globe and Mail, on the other hand, minces no words.  "Death in a war zone isn't automatically heroic, no matter what Ontario's Highway of Heroes procession route implies."

Read his article here:

If we overuse a word, it loses it's meaning. One doesn't become a hero simply by employment status, vocation or calling. One doesn't become a hero by the way that they died, but by the actions they took while they lived, sometimes that lead to their death. Just being there isn't enough. Extraordinary action in unusual circumstances on behalf of another, and not on behalf of a country blissfully engrossed otherwise with day-to-day life, but on behalf of a present and engaged other who is in immediate danger.

This is my definition. The Merriam-Webster on-line dicationary somewhat supports my definition, and to a degree, that of the common definition of a "central figure in an event, period, or movement".  John Allemang says it simply, "A...hero is someone who faces down common sense to do the uncommon thing."

If everyone's a hero simply by association, then no one's a hero.

That would be a loss to society on two levels, first the loss of yet another word watered down to become a bland modern colloquialism, and secondly the loss of what it truly means to be a hero, notwithstanding the very many examples of truly heroic individual behaviour by the men and women in Manhattan on 9/11, and of the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan.


  1. Dear anonymous,

    Before YOU go commenting on something of which you have no personal knowledge...


  2. Anonymous friend, let me then be clear.

    You have no knowledge, or at best very limited knowledge of my ties to the Armed Forces. I have written about it on at least three different occasions. I feel no obligation to go into any more detail, nor to justify myself.

    You may wish to read my original post again, if you can, and see that my "beef" is with society, not members of the Armed Forces or the Fire Department or with Police officers (far from it). Seriously, read it again with an open mind.

    And lastly, I have not "settled" for my career as you angrily suggest, having deliberately chosen NOT to accept a career in the Armed Forces. Some of us have to stay behind so that the troops will have jobs, homes, education, health care, churches, highways and libraries to come home to. It is no understatement to say that it means that much to me.

    God bless you and your family. You are obviously, and quite rightly, proud of your son, as I am of my children, who serve this nation in other ways.