Chris Hayes, an MSNBC broadcast journalist, was raked over the coals last week for honesty in thinking and dimness in speaking.
Hayes said he was uncomfortable calling American service members killed in action heroes. His reasoning was that we perpetuate war when we call every soldier, sailor, and marine who is killed, no matter the circumstance, a hero. We then honor the fallen in perpetuity.
Fallout from Hayes' remark was remarkable in its banality, as legions of anonymous "patriots" on websites let him have it. Posting anonymously means they don't even own their own thoughts!
Chris Hayes wasn't trying to start another angry word war. He was thinking out loud, trying to convey what he thought about truth being just that. Contrived circumstances are not worthy of honor.
Hayes has never served in uniform, which is a preference, not a weakness. He was merely saying it bothered him that when we honor the dead it's one thing, but when we label them
heroes because of accidents or anything beyond a soldier's control resulting in unavoidable death, but not bravery, we shouldn't refer to them as heroes. It isn't the uniform that makes a man brave, it's the man himself.
Hayes came close as toothpaste to insulting military veterans, but if you listened to or read what he said, that wasn't it at all. He was saying when we glorify war, it's war we seek.
It reminded us of a Leatherneck in a small boat on choppy seas Easter Sunday morning, 1945, riding from the ship to the Okinawa beach and dense battle. The minute the Marines landed the shooting started and it didn't stop for 82 days.
On one relatively quiet afternoon, the Marine was in the jungle when he was surprised by a Japanese soldier. Just the two of them, eye to eye, both armed.
The Marine, a war correspondent, had a picture of his wife and two sons inside his helmet. Both men had instincts and neither could turn and walk away. It was kill or be killed.
Shots were fired.
The Marine walked over to the Japanese man's body, and as was the custom of war, started to take everything his unit could use -- K-bar, sidearm, canteen -- and he knelt down to take the man's helmet. Inside he found a picture of a woman and two young Japanese boys.
The effect of this lingered. It turned him into a man who never wanted his own sons to go to war, never wanted anyone's wife to get the dreaded knock on the door from two uniformed soldiers bearing bad news. He didn't want it to happen to an American, Asian, German or anyone else, although he would never buy a German or Japanese car because of that war.
He was against the Vietnam War, the Korean conflict, the invasion of Grenada and Russians in Afghanistan. Really, he didn't like any discord and spent his life avoiding it.
Although he was against war, he did his duty. The Marines took Okinawa, the atom bomb was dropped, and so many military personnel were in the Pacific they had to go to China for a few months as the United States was evacuating soldiers, sailors and marines as fast as possible, but there were a lot of men needing boat rides home.
When he finally got home he was called a hero, he was in a parade, he got a medal. He loved the Marine Corps but hated war. His military training was good for him -- the man never went to work without highly polished shoes.
He never owned a gun.
"Mary Patootsie," my dad said while telling me his war experience, "it's always better to kill people with kindness."
He's a hero, yes, but it's because of who he was, not what he did in combat. He is buried in a military cemetery with a short American flag replaced by maintenance when needed.
Mary Pat Boian