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Old 01-11-2010, 03:51 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Are KIA's in Iraq or Afghanistan "heroes"?

Jinn's thread about respecting military personnel got me thinking about another thing. In Canada, soldiers killed in Afghanistan are repatriated through Trenton Air Force Base in Ontario, then driven in a funeral procession along the Trans-Canada highway to the nearest major civilian airport (Toronto), then flown to wherever their family is. The TCH passes through several towns, and people from the towns have been lining the highway or standing on the overpasses waving flags as the procession rolls through. Since Canada's involvement in Afghanistan, The Provincial government decided to change the name of the TCH from Trenton to Toronto to "The Highway of Heroes."





Dictonary.com defines a hero as:

he⋅ro

1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child.
3. the principal male character in a story, play, film, etc.
4. Classical Mythology.
a. a being of godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a divinity.
b. (in the Homeric period) a warrior-chieftain of special strength, courage, or ability.
c. (in later antiquity) an immortal being; demigod.

I don't mean to disparage these fine men/women who are away serving in the military, but let's face facts, they are doing a job, one they are being paid for. They chose to join the military, and accept whatever that might entail, including serving in a foreign country. To my mind, to call them heroes for doing something that they are paid to do, to take a risk they are paid to do takes something away from someone who unselfishly steps up in an emergency situation, and risks his/her life to save another, without thought of monetary reward.

Now, my question is: Are these young soldiers heroes?
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Old 01-11-2010, 03:55 PM   #2 (permalink)
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No. A hero is somebody who has distinguished him or herself beyond what is required. Those who were killed in Iraq are not heroes. Casualties of war.
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Old 01-11-2010, 04:11 PM   #3 (permalink)
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No, but I would hope people would escort my body in the same fashion were I killed.
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Old 01-11-2010, 04:22 PM   #4 (permalink)
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What does it hurt to let them be heroes? You're really going to go up to a dead soldier's mother and say, "I'm sorry, ma'am, but your son was just doing his job. Casualty of war."??

I'm as opposed to the war as anyone (and more than many), but the rhetoric to transform is the rhetoric that sends us TO war, not the words used to honor the war dead. Let the dead be, and let their families say whatever they want about them.
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Old 01-11-2010, 04:30 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratbastid View Post
What does it hurt to let them be heroes? You're really going to go up to a dead soldier's mother and say, "I'm sorry, ma'am, but your son was just doing his job. Casualty of war."??

I'm as opposed to the war as anyone (and more than many), but the rhetoric to transform is the rhetoric that sends us TO war, not the words used to honor the war dead. Let the dead be, and let their families say whatever they want about them.
Exactly.

Society needs a bit of hero worship imo, but on people who do deserve it, like soldiers, rather than the cult of celebrity. As for the definition, number 1 sums it up, if someone is admired for their deeds, who is anyone to say they are not a hero for it?

Soldiers do risk their life for others, just landing the damned plane is risky enough in a warzone. They don't fight for a country, they fight for each other, risking their lives for each other. Armed service is above and beyond the monetary reimbersment (soldiers get paid crap).

However the cynical side of me thinks that the low (yes, low, look at other wars throughout the ages) bodycount allows a certain amount of public mourning to be devoted to the dead, instead of the 10,000 people who were killed in the latest offensive this week e.t.c. Pretty much 'one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic' thinking.
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Old 01-11-2010, 04:33 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I won't stop anybody from saying what they want....except for the institution itself.

For the Military to call the soldier who killed himself by getting drunk and driving into a concrete barrier a 'Hero' denigrates those who actually performed heroic acts resulting in their deaths.

There is a big difference between someone who dies when their truck hits an IED and someone who jumps onto a hand-grenade to save his fellow soldiers. They should both be Honored, but only one performed a heroic act and 'gave his life' to protect his comrades. The guy who hit the IED just had a really bad day.
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Old 01-11-2010, 05:43 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratbastid View Post
What does it hurt to let them be heroes? You're really going to go up to a dead soldier's mother and say, "I'm sorry, ma'am, but your son was just doing his job. Casualty of war."??

I'm as opposed to the war as anyone (and more than many), but the rhetoric to transform is the rhetoric that sends us TO war, not the words used to honor the war dead. Let the dead be, and let their families say whatever they want about them.
Nobody is going to go out of their way to tell any mother that. My opinion isn't even rooted in my views on war in any way, rather the idealistic definition of a hero. That is it. It doesn't hurt. I just don't agree with it.
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Old 01-11-2010, 05:59 PM   #8 (permalink)
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They volunteered knowing this could be their fate. Stepping forward for whatever resason when one knows it could result in injury or death is heroic, in my opinion. In otherwords, they are all heros, dead or alive.
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Old 01-11-2010, 06:08 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I guess it really depends on what your definition of hero is and how they died in the first place. I guess one could argue anybody fighting in a war is a hero to some extent so how they died doesn't really matter as they were heroes anyway. On the other hand should a hero be somebody who does something exceptional or selfless that sets them apart?

What is a heroic death?

A soldier who throws himself on a live grenade (cliche I know) to save a groups of children waiting for the bus?

A soldier cleaning his weapon accidentally discharges a bullet in the chamber shooting himself in the temple?

A soldier who was shot in the line duty in an active war zone doing his daily patrol?

I don't know. Its an interesting question to think about. I'll have to get back to the discussion later on this one.
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Old 01-11-2010, 06:28 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Craven Morehead View Post
They volunteered knowing this could be their fate. Stepping forward for whatever resason when one knows it could result in injury or death is heroic, in my opinion. In otherwords, they are all heros, dead or alive.
Can't say it any better than this.
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Old 01-11-2010, 07:42 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I never liked the word hero. That doesn't mean heroes don't exist.

One doesn't have to give up their life to be a hero. Or be in a war zone.

Cops and firefighters are everyday heroes somewhere but few take the time to notice.

Lifelong volunteers and those who dedicate their lives to helping those less fortunate and the elderly can be heroes.

I saved the life of a person that was drowning once and another by pulling them out of a car wreck that seconds later exploded into flames. I don't consider myself a hero. Just someone who took the time to realize a threatening situation and acted on it.

My life was saved once. The person who did that is my hero.

I don't like the media glorifying heroes. The media has no right glorifying anything.

I like Hero sandwiches. But they are neither heroes nor anything to be glorified.
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Old 01-11-2010, 08:42 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Old 01-11-2010, 09:06 PM   #13 (permalink)
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In America, you are required to believe that all soldiers are heroes, otherwise the volunteer rates would be much lower. There are soldiers who do heroic deeds, but dying in and of itself doesn't make you a hero, or a martyr. What if a soldier died of old age while fighting in this endless war? Does that make them a hero? They still died while at war....?

If we stopped calling all soldiers heroes, it would certainly take some of the glamor out of wars. Maybe then fewer people would have to become heroes by dying? Of course, then there would be conscription. Do conscripted soldiers who are KIA count as heroes?

I imagine that saying soldiers are not heroes pisses a bunch of people off. But in reality, there is usually a huge secondary reason to go to war besides what the papers say (ie - OIL, private enterprise beneficiaries (blackwater, haliburton, etc), political power increase, etc) and the glamor and canonizing of those who volunteer to get killed isn't doing any of the actual soldiers any favors, it's only helping those who would see us continue to send our youth halfway around the world to die painful and tragic deaths.
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Old 01-11-2010, 10:04 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I am uncomfortable with the term hero so liberally applied. Some are heroic, some are just people killed while doing their job. It kind of feels like giving everyone who played in the little league baseball game a trophy so nobody feels left out.

I do, however, agree with the honouring those killed in war and support the sorts of demonstrations that are occurring along the Highway of Heroes (despite the name).
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Old 01-11-2010, 11:41 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Craven Morehead View Post
They volunteered knowing this could be their fate. Stepping forward for whatever resason when one knows it could result in injury or death is heroic, in my opinion. In otherwords, they are all heros, dead or alive.
Agreed.
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Old 01-12-2010, 12:17 AM   #16 (permalink)
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They are NOT heroes simply through the act of dying. Some were heroes through their acts whilst alive, and some of those acts of heroism will be unknown to everyone because they and all the witnesses died.

Some of them were undoubtedly villains too - it is simply not possible to put together a large group of people devoid of villains. That does not mean that they were more villainous by being in the military though.

All of them saints and sinners are worthy of our utmost respect for having volunteered to join a military knowing that they would be deployed to a war zone and knowing that they might die. Those who died certainly deserve dignity and decency, regardless of our personal view of the reasons behind the conflict.
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Old 01-12-2010, 12:34 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Craven Morehead View Post
They volunteered knowing this could be their fate. Stepping forward for whatever resason when one knows it could result in injury or death is heroic, in my opinion. In otherwords, they are all heros, dead or alive.
I pretty much agree with this. However, I served and was deployed three times, yet I never saw combat action. In my opinion, the only ones who should be considered "hero's" are the ones who don't come home. The rest of us were simply doing our job.

The idea of service members getting paid as compensation disqualifies them from the hero tag to me, is unfounded. Yeah, they get paid, but unless you're an officer or you've been in for a few years, your salary is low enough, some with families are on food stamps. At least that's how it used to be. If you're joining the military for the pay, you're seriously delusional. Very, very few get to the point their even remotely wealthy. And those that do aren't the ones getting killed.

A service-member who gives their life in a place they never heard of, for a president they didn't vote for, in a cause they don't care about, for a thankless public should be considered more of a hero than all the singers, songwriters, actors, or politicians put together. Most (MOST, not all, there's always an exception) service-members don't even ask for thanks in return. I know I'm extremely uncomfortable when someone shakes my hand and says "thanks for your service." I have no clue how to respond to that.
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Old 01-12-2010, 08:22 PM   #18 (permalink)
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My friend Jeff has done two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He calmly speaks of his experiences overseas, yet I wonder if the candidness with which he describes killing enemy combatants who fully intended to kill him and his comrades betrays a strain of post-traumatic stress, or more likely knowing Jeff, a bit of sociopathy. He went there and did his duty honorably, got injured and got right back into action without winning a purple heart from it, and went back again when his commanders told him it was time. Then there's Dan, who sat next to me in English class my senior year of high school. I saw him dive out of the way of an exploding propane tank the morning of the Fallujah assault. Now he's back in college getting an education and on his way to building a civilian career. Then there are my friends Gabe and Vishal. Neither one of them is from a rich family, they joined the national guard because they would pay for college in exchange for service. Gabe is in Iraq as of the past 2 weeks and Vishal just got his ass dropped into Kabul last week in time to miss celebrating my birthday. Gabe and Vishal are in for a big surprise if
Jeff, Dan, and Russell (a Marine, also a friend from college) have anything to say about what it will be like.

They were all called to go above and beyond what the average person can ever consider, because they thought their service can make the world a better place. I'm ineligible for service, otherwise I would be in and confronting America's enemies and trying my best to win the hearts and minds of foreign nationals who have a lukewarm opinion of us, at best.

Dead or alive, those who serve honorably while maintaining their moral compass are heroes. My friends are heroes and I can't wait until the last one of them is home, I can give them a hero's welcome, and stop losing my breath everytime a US death is mentioned on the news.
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Old 01-12-2010, 11:06 PM   #19 (permalink)
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playing devils advocate here...

are the war dead of those iraqis and afghanis considered heroes?

They may not have been al qaeda, but they may have taken arms against an agressor who's usurped their homeland. when we see on the nightly news the families of slain iraqis and afghanis celebrating their martyrdom, is it considered in the same light as americans celebrating their life of their dead in similar fashion?
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Old 01-13-2010, 09:57 AM   #20 (permalink)
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I believe an enemy soldier who died serving his country honorably deserves no less respect and admiration than we would give our own soldiers. Even though we may not have the same belief systems in place they do, they're still fighting for their homeland.

Terrorists are a completely different story in my eyes. But, then again, in the eyes of their own, they are heroes. I suppose it depends on what side of the fence you're on, a terrorist in our eyes is most certainly seen as a freedom fighter in someone else's.
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Old 01-14-2010, 01:07 PM   #21 (permalink)
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dlish brings up an excellent and almost more pertinent point. where do we draw the line, anyway? Seems like it is okay to throw around the terrorist label like it's nothing, but those who are terrorists to us are dying for their beliefs and their religion....heroes? hmmm
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Old 01-14-2010, 04:38 PM   #22 (permalink)
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It's one of the reasons I don't like the term Hero in this context.
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Old 01-14-2010, 04:58 PM   #23 (permalink)
 
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it's a term that's used too much and mostly to sell a war. the idea appears to be to bypass the politics of the war and act as though it's a necessary frame within which various things happen. it's kinda new that way, too. i dont think it was thrown around in quite the same way as it is now during previous periods. its usage seems to me to have gotten out of hand during cowboy's george's regime.

and i agree with charlatan and dlish...the points they make converge with maybe a less cynical version of the same i'm making

this isn't to say that there aren't particular actions that should be understood as heroic. but i've never understood the creation of a theatrical/public dimension of those people who do such acts many of whom were heroic for the duration of that act. i dont really see how any single action defines who someone is. this part is not at all new--its as old as the hills. seems like there's always been a tendency to create public personae around this hero idea. some of the oldest ones seem at least honest--the odyssey and iliad for example involve alot of scurvy dealings. those folk aren't always Heroic.

but i digress
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