This will be my first article on Newsvine.
Originally, the concept for this article was formed on October 11th, 2012. Those of you about to frantically search Google for that date can rest easy, I'll tell you why it was so important: on October 11th, 2012, Retired Command Sergeant Major Basil L. Plumley passed away at the age of 92. Cmd Sgt Maj Plumley held two distinctions: first, he fought in the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam; second...that was the third war he'd fought in. Plumley had fought in World War II, the Korean War, and finally the Vietnam War. His passing marked a major loss for our nation.
At the time, I did not feel I had the ability to give justice to the concept his passing brought to my mind, and so I held off. Now, on this day, I think its appropriate to try. As many may be aware, today--December 8th, 2012--marks 40 years since the final moon landing, Apollo 17, launched.
40 years. Let that sink in for a moment. In these past 40 years, who have we lost? What heroes of nigh god-like performance have we watched slip into their final night? I'm sure nearly every person reading this has thought now of Neil Armstrong, who passed August 25th, 2012. Or perhaps Sally Ride, who passed July 23th, 2012.
Or maybe your mind went automatically to the men and women who have served their nation and epitomized the words made famous by Howard Osterkamp of Dent: "all gave some; some gave all". Not just the 3468 medal of honor recipients, but even more who performed acts of utmost heroism and go yet unrecognized.
Whatever your first thought, it must be followed by the very question I have asked: where are the heroes of our era? Where are those who have shattered the very notion of all that we've known, who have heralded the flight into the future of our world and nation? As xkcd, a webcomic, jests: "If NASA were willing to fake great accomplishments, they'd have a second one by now." The same holds true with a great many realms in which we could be accomplishing greatness.
Before continuing, I will interrupt myself to say that, when it comes to the occurrence of heroes in this era, I do not include the military. Servicemembers continue to perform acts of resounding heroism in the fact of conflict. But we who serve and have served must remember our own great matters, as demonstrated by the passing of Florence Green--who passed in February--and was the last surviving person to serve during World War I; she was 110 and two weeks from 111. Those of the military, forged in conflict, must not forget the heroes before us even as we march ahead and new heroes are born, a memory made poignant by yesterday; December 7th, the "Date which will Live in Infamy".
But for the rest the nation--perhaps even the world--we are put to shame by the acts of our predecessors. Certainly you may try and look at the device on which you're reading this--does it fit in your hand? does it run at speeds rivaling anything in history?--but you must ask yourself then what it is that makes a trailblazer a hero. This is not to belittle the accomplishments of those who brought us to this computerized age, but can we truly call them heroes, when we compare the risks they took to the risks of men and women like Armstrong, Plumley, and Ride?
Heroes are not just born on the battlefield amidst death and hot lead. So why then have we found so few in the past generations? Will the next ones be any better, if we do not create some sort of drive for them? We have stopped rewarding the risks these great men and women took, both in public and in our hearts. Now, the pioneers are not simply mocked, they are blocked: blocked by politics, blocked by business, blocked by the public itself. One look at the patent office and who holds what will tell you a great deal of this to be true. One look at the defunding of major advancement groups will do the same.
It is time to start asking for heroes to step forth, before we wake one day and find that...there are no more.
As befitted the premise of this article, I had looked up and prepared John Gillespie Magee's "High Flight" poem to end with. However, in doing so, I discovered a less well known poem that he had penned only a month prior to his passing in a terrible mid-air collision.
Written in November of 1941, here is "Per Ardua":
- "Per Ardua"
- (To those who gave their lives to England during the Battle of
- Britain and left such a shining example to us who follow, these
- lines are dedicated.)
- "They that have climbed the white mists of the morning;
- They that have soared, before the world's awake,
- To herald up their foeman to them, scorning
- The thin dawn's rest their weary folk might take;
- Some that have left other mouths to tell the story
- Of high, blue battle, quite young limbs that bled,
- How they had thundered up the clouds to glory,
- Or fallen to an English field stained red.
- Because my faltering feet would fail I find them
- Laughing beside me, steadying the hand
- That seeks their deadly courage –
- Yet behind them
- The cold light dies in that once brilliant Land ....
- Do these, who help the quickened pulse run slowly,
- Whose stern, remembered image cools the brow,
- Till the far dawn of Victory, know only
- Night's darkness, and Valhalla's silence now?"
Written while listening to the following songs: