On Wednesday, our nation will pause again as it does each year to remember the victims of September 11, 2001. Our country was attacked that day on U. S. soil, the first since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. We remember the many victims of New York City, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
If you are old enough, you will never forget the images we saw on television that day: the airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center towers, the collapsing of the towers, the fire and destruction at the Pentagon, and the report of an airliner hijacked and eventually crashing in Pennsylvania after it was discovered that brave passengers aboard the plane saved it from possibly crashing into another building in Washington, DC or elsewhere.
Sports have always played a big part in my life. From playing, to working in the field of athletic training at the collegiate and professional levels, to simply being a fan of the games, I have always wondered if our nation overemphasizes sports and the players we idolize. Don’t get me wrong, I had my fair share of sports heroes, and I continue to have those players in mind that I admire and enjoy watching. There is something about the wonderment and respect I have for people who are talented and make very difficult skills seem so easy.
But in a day and age when we continually see professional athletes rewarded for bad behavior, it frustrates me to know that we as a nation villainize the real heroes of our nation. By that I mean police officers, firefighters, first responders, and service men and women.
It was an absolute crime for our nation to treat returning Vietnam veterans they way we did in the 1970s after they returned home from serving our nation. I think of police officers today, who have always accepted the risk that is involved in protecting our towns and cities, to only now be castigated in the news media, and scrutinized to the point that everyone now has a cell phone and video camera recording their every moves and hoping to set them up for eventual dismissal or legal charges against them as they try to protect us all.
If it sounds like I am angry, then I guess I am. Our members of the service who faced or are facing danger in their service to protect our nation are the real heroes, and I think they are often forgotten until we need them. There simply is not enough praise or respect we can give them for what they have given and continue to give to our nation. As much as I love sports and admire the great athletes that play the games, I think of people like my father who served in the United States Navy during World War II…he and others like him are the real heroes.
The real heroes don’t serve our country for fame, fortune, or publicity. In fact, anyone I have ever talked to that served in the military has acted almost embarrassed to share the great deeds and accomplishments of their service. In fact, if you press them on it, they will likely say something like, “I was just doing my job.”
I will never forget that day in September, eighteen years ago. As divided politically as our country was at the time, the tragedies of the day brought our nation together like no other time since World War II. As a nation, we found a way to put our political differences aside and stand united for our country. Boy, is that needed now. I just hope it doesn’t take another tragedy to make it happen.
So this article is my salute to the real heroes; the veterans and our current service men and women, our police officers, our first responders, and any other service organization that is involved in protecting or reinvesting themselves into the preservation of this great nation.
This Wednesday, take time to thank a service member. Thank them for their service and their willingness to put themselves second to focus their lives on our nation and ensuring that all of us are free, protected, and cared for. As much as I admire our great athletes, I suggest to all of you that our real heroes are our service men and women and our community servants.
God bless them and our nation on this day of remembrance.