The True Heroes
By Bob Robinson
When I took a semester off from college, I would occasionally take a
date to the Officer’s Club for dinner. My adopted father was an Air
Force Light Colonel. To make access to the base easier, he had me drive
his car. It had his Air Force decal on it.
Some young airman – usually about my age – would always come to
attention and salute. It made me uncomfortable. I didn’t deserve the
salute. I was a college screw-up, not an officer of the U.S. Air Force.
One time I tried just nodding… the poor guy held his salute. I felt
even worse. I learned then that it had to be returned. It was a matter
of respect. Not for me. For the rank.
Dad explained it to me. It isn’t the person. It’s the office… or in
this case, the rank.
I’ve always tried to carry that lesson with me, although I’ll admit
that many a politician over the years has made it difficult.
Years later when Dad passed away, his wish to be buried at Arlington
National Cemetery was honored. It was a full military ceremony with the
Cason Procession and Honor Guard. Dad was a World War II and Korea
veteran who had earned several medals for his service to his country.
The Procession and Honor Guard was a ceremony that has been observed in
our country for generations. Full of tradition and honor. Payment of
our last respects to those who gave so much… many of them paying the
Somehow it doesn’t seem enough that we only take time out one day a
year to acknowledge and honor their sacrifices. Some don’t even do
that. It’s a 3-day weekend for bar-b-q’s, family and friends that marks
the onset of summer.
One of the things I love about Darke County is that the majority of
those who live here understand what we owe our Vets… and it is a
respect that is taught at an early age.
I didn’t know it until I started substitute teaching, but every
building I’ve been in – throughout the county – starts the day with the
Pledge of Allegiance. I’ve seen our history being taught and last week
I saw lesson plans regarding Memorial Day and why it is so important to
The spring performance of the East Echoes was patriotic and uplifting…
I was privileged to see it twice: first at the Memorial Hall Centennial
and again for all the third and fourth graders at East.
As adults we respect what our soldiers do for us. And we teach it to
our children. Many of these kids have relatives currently serving in
Afghanistan or some other part of the world. Some of them have lost a
relative in service to our country.
It is essential they try to understand something that is difficult – if
not impossible – to understand. Why a loved one had to go before his or
her time. I’m not sure I completely understand it and I’ve been
pounding the pavement for 67 years.
My birth father and his crew died trying to land a B-47 with a crippled
engine. Most were in their thirties. I was 13 at the time. My kid
sister was four. She only vaguely remembers him. My baby sister has no
recollection at all.
How do you teach a child that sometimes it is necessary for someone –
especially someone they love - to fight so that they have the
privileges they take for granted?
On Friday I said good-bye for the summer to the kids I’d gotten to know
so well at Woodland over the past year. They were excited. They were
going to be “free!” Free to go swimming… free to play all day… free to
be bored before the week is out.
They take it for granted. As they should. It is their birthright as
American citizens. My hope, however, is that their parents take them to
a Memorial Day event today… and explain to them the reason for it.
“Freedom doesn’t come free” is a phrase we often hear. But do we really
think about it? Do we really know what it means? Do we really think
about the purchase price paid by so many?
If there is one day a year that we should, it is today.
At any Memorial Day event around Darke County you will meet our heroes.
Those who have served us honorably in their lifetimes. Those who
served, then came home to rebuild their lives.
When you do, thank them for their service. Teach your children to do
the same. Most will say thank you. Some will be embarrassed… because
they know better. It is appropriate to show respect for their office,
their rank or their service. Each and every one of them has earned it…
sometimes at a high price. Those same individuals might tell you,
however, that today is about the true hero. My Dad did. A long time ago.
“The true heroes are the men and women who didn’t come home.”
That’s what Memorial Day is about.
As always, written with respect and gratitude toward my natural and
adopted fathers, my nephew Duane, my Aggie friends Jim Neeley and Rich
Powell and the many Veterans I’ve met in Darke County and elsewhere
over the years.