Memorial Day focuses on real heroes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I was taught in college that all good reporters should be unbiased, and while I generally try to be neutral, sometimes that&8217;s impossible.

It was hard this week not to get swept up in the patriotism Monday at the Blue Star Salute in Montevallo or while talking to WWII veterans about flying to Washington, D.C. with Honor Flight.

Yes, I&8217;m a journalist, but I&8217;m also a proud American.

So, I did tear up a little during the Gold Star Salute, a tribute to the 110 Alabama service men and women who have died fighting against terrorism since 9/11.

During the solemn ceremony at the American Village, wives and mothers put roses at the foot of a tribute to fallen soldiers.

Reading through the list of names, I realized that many of those brave men were about my age.

It hit me hard, knowing most of these guys will never have the life I sometimes take for granted.

They&8217;ll never marry and raise a family. They&8217;ll never buy that first house or celebrate a big job promotion.

We throw around the term &8220;hero&8221; lightly sometimes. But a hero isn&8217;t a homerun king or rock star.

It&8217;s someone like Army Specialist Stephen Bicknell of Prattville or Marine Lance Corporal Ryan R. Willoughby of Hoover.

Both of these young men died just a few months after high school, sacrificing their lives to protect you and me.

Heroes are also men like 92-year-old Charlie Burton and 85-year-old Peter Anella, World War II veterans who flew to Washington D.C. last month with Honor Flight.

Though I only talked briefly with these two men, I realized right way what deep love they share for their country.

They both spoke with a deep conviction about a war that ended more than 60 years ago. But no amount of time could erase the pride they had in their service or the sadness felt for buddies who didn&8217;t make it back home.

They talked about what an honor it was to visit a memorial dedicated to America&8217;s greatest generation.

I wish we would appreciate our country&8217;s real heroes more than just a few days a year. So, next time you run across a service member, tell them, &8216;Thank you.&8221;