Last weekend I attended my last aunt's viewing. My uncle, 90, stood quietly by her casket. His tie prominently displayed the B17 aircraft tie tack I gave him years ago. To me he is an American hero. He was the lead navigator during the first Berlin bombing raid in WWII. He flew over 20 missions.
During one mission, anti-aircraft shrapnel blew through the floor between his boots, through his navigation table and out the aircraft ceiling leaving a hole in his log book. He was miraculously uninjured.
I learned that night, as we spoke, that his service was a willing sacrifice. As a University of Utah mining engineering student, he was encouraged to sign a paper to be spared military service. He refused. Enlisting in the Air Corp, he was the top student in his navigation class due to his college background. He was selected to represent the class in receiving their wings at the graduation ceremony. Again, he was told that if he wanted to stay and instruct, he could avoid the conflict. He again refused. When asked why, he simply said, "We are at war--we have been attacked."
Now, over 60 years later, he showed the same heroism in caring for his sweetheart. A survivor of recent heart bypass surgery himself, he took meticulous care of my aunt as she slowly lost her vision, her balance and finally appetite. In the final months, this American hero read aloud book after book by her bedside and fed her orange Jello - the only thing she would eat.
Now she was gone and he stood in quiet majesty as people came to offer their respects. He expressed his thankfulness that she no longer suffered, free of any canker of self-pity for now being alone.
On our drive home I began to wonder why selfless men like this no longer seem to serve in our government. Perhaps they have misunderstood. Instead of American heros - Washington seems to be full of American "Neros" who now fiddle while the country smolders, if not burns.