On memorial day TCM plays all the classic war movies. I don’t watch. I cry too much. I’m embarrassed to sob out loud even in my own den. That’s why I won’t go to see War Horse.
I do not understand gallantry, but I respect it and the people who display it. What makes a man risk his life to rescue a buddy trapped between the lines? Or dive into an icy stream to save a drowning child? What made those first responders rush IN to the Twin Towers? Or a fireman run into a burning building? Or a cop shield a civilian with his body when the bullets fly?
Oh, I’ve heard the theories. It’s training. Or it’s not wanting to let your friends down. Or it’s the herd instinct. It certainly is not a desire for publicity or approbation. You think that Medal of Honor winner was thinking that he might win a medal for holding off an advancing army so his buddies could get away? I know men and women who wear so many ribbons they look like dictators from a banana republic. Most of them have forgotten why they were awarded.
I have been married to an army officer, now retired, for over forty years. I met him at the bar of the Karlsruhe, Germany, officers’ club in the years I lived in Europe, married him in France, and spent our first year of marriage in Italy. I worked those years as a civilian employee of the army mostly at the headquarters of our army command in Germany. My first husband was in the army chorus, and I’m a navy brat, so I’ve spent a good deal of my life among the military.
They never talk about the bad times. They tell funny stories. They talk of camaraderie and getting the job done so they can come home. George said after his tour in Viet Nam he was surprised anybody could live scared to death for over a year. Didn’t stop his doing his job. I would have been curled up in a corner sucking my thumb.
So here’s to all those gallant men and women—civilian and military—who pile into Moore, Oklahoma, or Falujah, or drop down a mine shaft to bring up someone who’s hurt, or climb a mountain to find a lost tourist. Who do the job and take the risks. Who give us cowards their gallantry. Please, Lord, keep them safe.