Once again, Frank Warren, from Postsecret, understands something critical that is too often overlooked on days like Memorial Day- the humanity of it all.
I have seen countless posts this weekend encouraging us to remember our fallen heroes, to take the time to pause and be thankful for their sacrifices and to remember that our freedoms come at a high price. I agree with all of these sentiments and would add that we owe those who are willing to sacrifice their very lives for our country the promise that we won’t ask them to do so unless absolutely necessary. But many of those posts, the memes, quotes and photos, fail to make a human connection. Even those which are intended to be sincere often come across as trite, in my humble opinion.
Then I saw the above video on Postsecret yesterday and I didn’t feel pandered to, emotionally manipulated or that some xenophobic idea of patriotism was being forced upon me. I felt moved. I smiled through tears as I watched this video full of secrets.
One of the reasons I find this video so moving is that it is a compilation of thoughts from the people who have actually lived or are living through the personal sacrifices. Their words will always be more powerful than anything the rest of us could possibly come up with. Furthermore, I don’t think we do these men and women a service when we think of them only as heroes- that’s not reality but instead a role that is played. A role that too often carries with it a heavy burden. One of the first secrets in the video is a confession by someone about how scared they are. Why is this a secret? Why isn’t it okay for these men and women, many of whom are so very young, to admit that they are afraid. This is the price of heroism. People can be afraid, heroes have to be brave. All the time. A pedestal, it seems, is a very confining, often lonely place to be perched.
By exalting men and women to the status of hero, instead of recognizing acts of heroism as one part of the very real people who perform them, we risk making them separate from the rest of us. In many ways they begin to seem less human and more like the characters we watch in movies and on TV. I think to truly honor our service men and women we need to recognize their humanity. They are sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, boyfriends and girlfriends, friends and lovers. Most of the time they get up and go to regular jobs, complain about their co-workers, tuck their kids into bed, mow the lawn, shop for groceries and all of the other ordinary things that make a life.
In short, we need to remember them not as heroes but as people who have done heroic things. I find the reality of an ordinary person digging deep and finding in themselves a moment of heroic bravery much more reverent than the caricature of hero that is thrown around to the point of losing meaning. For this reason when I think of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, that of their life, I try to focus not on the sacrifice but on the LIFE they left behind. And I am grateful.