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Heroism and Suffering

Life continues to amaze me. Every time you get content or feel sorry for yourself, something happens that wakes you up. Problem is we don’t always see it. In this case, it was very easy to see.
Today is Veterans Day. On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, the Armistice Treaty was signed in 1918 ending WWI. Today we honor the brave men and women who have served to provide and protect the freedoms and way of life we enjoy today. I was lucky enough to attend a Veterans Day Memorial celebration at the retirement community clubhouse where my mother lives near Raleigh, NC.
As I entered, the lobby there were photos on display of those who had served. All branches of the service were covered with men who served in WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. During the service, they asked those who served to stand based on their branch as there military song was sung by a choir. Later, they had them stand up relative to the war they served in to receive a nice applause. I soon realized I was the only man in the room who never stood up. I was honored to be in the room with so many heroes. And this is where it gets interesting.
One of the things we are assured of in this human existence is a certain amount of suffering. Some just have more than others. As an ALS patient, there is a certain amount of suffering I’m dealing with right now with more to come. I’ve also had my fair share of people tell me I am a hero to them. I’ve never had a good answer when someone says that to me. My hero was my dad and now Steve Gleason has been added to that list. Not only are they heroes to me, but both have had their fair share of suffering. It is just hard to put myself in that category.
 Two people in the crowd today made me realize that suffering and heroism are relative. The first was sitting right next to me. I had made conversation with a lady to my right who suddenly stood up to say a few words. She said thank you to the WWII vets in the crowd who saved her life. She lost her entire family in the war and spent seven years in a prison camp until Germany surrendered, saving her life. Suddenly my suffering seemed very small in comparison. The next was a WWII vet. He earned five Purple Hearts, the Medal of Honor, and a distinguished Medal of Honor from France. He was in one of the first troops to land on Omaha beach during the invasion of Normandy. I had to shake his hand and thank him for his service. I also told him what an American hero he was. He was very thankful but said he was no hero. He was simply following orders doing his job, the real heroes were those that never made it back from the many battles he participated in. Here was the most highly decorated veteran I ever met who didn’t feel like a hero. How could I feel like a hero if he couldn’t?
That was when I realized heroism and suffering are all relative. There will always be people having a tougher day than I am, and heroes have their own heroes. Today I was humbled and honored to be in the midst of so many brave men and women. It was a scene I hope many of our youth would be able to attend one day including my children. In the meantime, as long as my kids think of me as a hero, I will be happy and when I want to complain about my suffering I will think of the woman who spent and lost most of her childhood in a prison camp.
God Bless America.
thank you


3 responses to “Heroism and Suffering

  1. Alice Wolfe ⋅

    You hit the nail right on the head! Those who are true heroes never recognize it in themselves … As usual you put things in perspective in words the simple person can understand! What a great experience that you can share with the many children you speak to … A true lesson on what a hero is! Job well said Jim. Hugs — Alice

  2. Karen ⋅


    You are our Hero!

    Enjoy your time in NC! Hello to all!

    J and K

  3. Alice Wolfe ⋅

    Amen! Attended a service just like this at our clubhouse here in Florida. Our main speaker was a 94 yr old bomber pilot from WWII and Korea. A true hero never recognizes his or her own heroism … As such you qualify for your daily battle to live your life to the fullest! Merry Christmas Jim … We continue to be proud of you and know your dad is smiling down on you and believes you too are a hero! Hugs … Gary and Alice

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