When you see the word hero, what do you think of? More specifically, who do you think of? A brave serviceman or woman fighting overseas, a local police officer or maybe even your mom or dad are probably some of the most common answers.
I was raised in Houston, Texas by one of the finest heroes in the whole city. I was raised by a Houston firefighter. So my idea of a hero is just that, my father. The courageous and brilliant man who taught me all about life, and simultaneously, the hometown hero who would lay down his life for a civilian in need.
A hero, to me, has and always will be a civil servant of some sort (not including politicians though, because for the most part they exclusively serve THEMSELVES). Political jokes aside though, I have mad respect for all of the local heroes, including, but not limited to firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians. But my respect does not stop there, I would also include the active duty, the reservists and the retired who serve or who have served in our nation's military.
A hero, to me, is not limited to one word or one job description. A hero is somebody who has served, fought or sacrificed for a cause greater than themselves. And I am so grateful that I live in a country where heroes (by my definition) are so incredibly plentiful.
Just recently, Houston lost one of it's most valiant and incredible heroes by the name of Captain William Dowling, although some of you might know him as Iron Bill.
This was a man who fought battle after battle, year after year and WON time after time. This is a man who deserves all of our admiration and all of our respect, for he has done so much for our great nation as a United States Marine, and eventually paid the ultimate price as a Houston firefighter.
In May of 2013, there was a hotel restaurant fire that changed the city of Houston forever. In terms of firefighter casualties, it was the most deadly fire in the history of the Houston Fire Department, taking the lives of four (and now five) of our most courageous fighters. Iron Bill made it out of the fire that day, but was left with the amputation of both legs, serious injuries caused by the fire and severe brain damage. The life he has lived for almost four years now was one of strength, courage and above all great determination.
It was with great sadness that his family, friends and loved ones said good-bye one final time at his emotional memorial service last week. As heart-breaking as it is to have lost him at the young age of forty-three, at least we can say with certainty that he is at perfect peace now with his Heavenly Father, and there is no greater comfort than that.
But I don't want my readers to get confused, this amazing man of God is not alone in the category of heroes we lost along the way. Unfortunately, heroes like this pass away each and every day, and most of them do not get the recognition that they so incredibly deserve.
It is astounding, but so many of the servicemen and women who die in the line of duty overseas go completely unnoticed in our cushy, "first world" lifestyles. The news fails to report and most of us (unintentionally) fail to care. Yet the brave families who are forced to live in a newfound world without their loved ones are expected to just carry on as if nothing is wrong.
Which leads to my next point, why don't we care about these families?
From the families of fallen firefighters or fallen police officers, to the families of fallen war heroes; most of them are collectively ignored, at best.
Most typical civilians (who belong to strictly civilian families) fail to realize that death, amputations, brain damage, post-traumatic stress disorder and other life-altering injuries or disorders are a "normal" part of life for these heroic families and life-partners. The overall dialogue differs greatly from those in a "normal" household.
So while it is extraordinarily necessary that we honor, remember and ultimately respect the heroes of this great nation; it is also absolutely crucial that we simultaneously respect and support the spouses and children of these great men and women who also sacrifice so much for the common good of those around them.
These children grow up in a world where death is a possibility at any given moment, and where loss is to be expected in one form or another. And the husbands or wives of these brave souls are expected to care for their children during these trying times, all the while trying to nurture and care for themselves. I cannot even fathom the bravery, faith and sheer strength it must take to hold it together in those catastrophic situations.
The life of a hero's wife (or husband) is not a life for the faint of heart, mind or spirit. It is a job created for individuals who can look pain and misfortune in the eye and keep on keeping on. It is an honor, a duty and a privilege to serve your husband or wife while they are concurrently serving this country, ultimately making those husbands and wives civil servants, as well.
So friends, I ask you, please thank the heroes in your life, but don't forget to thank their families, as well. The people who helped shape and form these heroes into such incredible beings deserve some much-needed recognition after so many years of standing in the shadows.
It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes an entire nation to show a hero the recognition that they truly deserve.
So this one is for all of the faithful friends of heroes, the mommas and daddies of heroes, all of the aunties and uncles of heroes, all of the sweet grand-parents of heroes, all of the courageous children of heroes and ultimately, the spouses and partners of those heroes. We love you. We value you. And we remember and appreciate your actions and your sacrifice.
May God bless you all.
"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."
- John 15:13 NIV