Humility comes first for real heroes

There’s something distinctly off-putting about political candidates who wear their military service on their sleeves.

With each day, hundreds of World War II veterans die and it’s rather remarkable to read over and over about how so many of these brave men returned home after having survived tremendous combat, after having seen myriad friends and comrades killed, after having turned back the forces of fascism and imperialism, and did their best to get on with their lives.

They didn’t stand on the street corner and trumpet what they’d done to the world, they just went back to work, raised families and did what they could to better their communities and the nation.

I suppose that’s because real heroes don’t brag about their heroism. Real heroes don’t have to constantly remind everyone how heroic they are; they accept their heroism and move on with their lives.  They certainly don’t go around using the men they led as political pawns.

The bravest men I’ve read about and had the good fortune to meet were also the most humble.

Almost without fail, they said it was not they who were the heroes, but their comrades who gave their lives for their country. They never boasted of their exploits.

John Finn, the nation’s oldest-living Medal of Honor recipient, died recently at age 100. Finn was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Pearl Harbor.

He was assigned to Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay on Dec. 7, 1941, when he found himself firing at Japanese planes from an exposed position for more than two hours despite being hit 21 times by bomb and bullet fragments.

“I know this sounds corny, but on December 7, I was just doing my duty and what I had been trained and paid to do since I was 17 years old,” he said in an interview more than 40 years later.

That’s it. He was doing his duty – nothing more.

Contrast that with those running for office who constantly talk up their military duty while on the campaign trail, who Twitter about what they’ve done for their country, who decorate their websites with military images and the awards they’ve received.

Real heroes don’t brag because they don’t need to. They’re secure in who they are and what they’ve done for their country. Anyone who feels the need to hold himself out as a hero probably isn’t.