Fading heroes: Who will remember them?
Charles Durning, the recognizable and prolific character actor, died on Christmas Eve at age 89. His long career in Hollywood got him an obituary in The New York Times. In two paragraphs, the Times mentioned that, by the way, Durning served in World War II, earning the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.
On D-Day, Durning landed on Omaha Beach in the first wave. Of his entire unit, he was the only survivor. In Belgium, the Times noted, he was stabbed by a German soldier, whom he beat to death with a rock. He was captured in the Battle of the Bulge and was one of the few survivors of the massacre at Malmedy. But were it not for his acting career, his life story never would have been told.
Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf died last week at age 78. Though he was justifiably famous for his command in the first Gulf War, he also was a decorated combat veteran. In two combat tours in Vietnam, he earned three Silver Stars a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and three Distinguished Service Medals. He was an exceptional hero long before he ever became an international celebrity.
This country is full of heroes, fading and all but forgotten. They walk among us unrecognized, until, one day, they are gone. We should remember every one of them for the sacrifices they made for us. They should not have to become celebrities to have their stories told, their names honored.