Real-Life Heroes: Would Your Child Recognize One?

On the silver screen, the hero does laps around a racetrack, then, the villain appears. The battle is on. As movie-goers are catching their collective breaths, fearing the worst, the hero’s combination secretary-girlfriend-sidekick – who has somehow found her way onto the track – slides his blood red briefcase across the pavement in the nick of time. All it takes is a downward flip of his foot and the briefcase opens, revealing not a briefcase’s expected contents but the high-tech suit used to transform our hero into a legend of comic-book origin. Thanks to the miracles of computers, the audience watches wide-eyed as the red-and-gold suit systematically encases his body. He is Iron Man, and the day is – eventually – saved.

The Iron Man trilogy is a money maker of multi-billion dollar proportions, and that’s only counting ticket sales. Another popular option, The Avengers, brought in almost $400 million its first 10 days in theaters. Captain America falls a bit farther down the list, although the release of The Winter Soldier grossed $302 million in 10 days, when you take worldwide tallies. The economy may worsen, but Americans continue to flock to the movies. Perhaps as a partial sign of the current times, people are looking for a sign of heroes, a sign someone will save and protect them from whatever danger is lurking around the next dark corner. As Joan Jett once crooned, everybody needs a hero.

“The point is not how long you live, but how nobly you live.” Seneca

Iron ManAsk any child what their idea of a hero is and you’ll receive mixed, yet somehow uniform, answers. Cries of “Iron Man,” “The Hulk,” and “Superman” are repeated ad nauseam by boys with the occasional football players and WWE wrestlers for variety. Girls, too, list comic-book-turned-big-screen heroes, also adding singers like Drake and David Guetta as well as apparently hot teen actors such as Josh Hutcherson – think Hunger Games – and, of course, Taylor Lautner of Twilight saga fame. The upcoming generation seems to believe men in spandex or super-charged iron suits are what a hero is made of, with the runner-ups being scripted wrestlers and baby-faced teen actors. Of course, this runs deeper than just today’s kids, because it’s their parents who either do or do not bother teaching them what a hero really is. Walking up to a woman in the grocery store and posing the question of heroes garnered the reply of “That guy who plays Thor! Man is a hunk!”

And yet, some kids should give us hope for America’s future. Some kids know what a hero is, whether through painful experience and loss or because of the examples displayed and deeply ingrained in them by their parents. A few years back there was one boy out of perhaps 45 in the fifth grade at the local elementary school who wore a long-sleeved digicam shirt to school on a daily basis. When questioned about it, he rather quietly announced it was because he desperately hoped to join the service when he grows up. Some acts, such as his, are small, and will hopefully be encouraged and reach fruition. Others are larger and reek of the agony of hard lessons learned young, such as the thousands of kids who attend the Snowball Express each year in Texas. It’s a massive gathering of kids who have lost a military parent to death, and it’s a gathering both awesome in its experiences, precious in its memories, and painful in the depth and magnitude of its many losses. Those losses are magnified in any ways, but gathering all those kids together along with their surviving parents? Priceless. (Snowball Express is coming up soon and can always use donations. Visit their website at http://www.snowballexpress.org.) And then there are the actions carried out at times throughout the year, actions that give hope because they speak to the opening glimmers of understanding in today’s youth of the sacrifices made by military members.

Sadly, girls today are apparently even less likely than boys to recognize true heroism, maybe because the focus on being a liberated feminist has gotten ridiculously out of control. When it came to a gathering of hundreds of fifth graders, there was only one girl of the group, an 11-year-old named Grace, who was adamant in her belief that true heroes are found in our military. When her class was instructed to write a report about their personal hero – an assignment given the additional definition of hopefully being about someone who had somehow changed and improved the world – Grace’s choice made her stand out. Out of all those 10 and 11-year-olds, only one detailed the sacrifice of a military member, and it was Grace. She read Lone Survivor cover to cover, not once but twice, and created a detailed trifold explaining Operation Red Wings. Her oral report was greater in length than any other student’s – and she was peppered with questions by fellow students at such an astonishing rate even the teachers were surprised.

In honor of the sacrifice made by 19 men 10 years ago, Grace wrote a summary of the events that took place, adding why she feels it’s of vital importance for her peers:

Marcus Luttrell
Marcus Luttrell

“Operation Red Wings began when four SEALs went to find terrorist Ahmad Shah. On June 28, 2005, four SEALS named Michael P. Murphy, Matthew G. Axelson, Danny P. Dietz, and Marcus Luttrell were sent on the mission. They went into hiding, and the next day group of men living in a village nearby came up to the mountains with their goats. They were talking to the Taliban through a radio and the SEALS captured them and tried to figure out what to do. They had to decide to let them go or kill them. They chose to let them go. Marcus gave the youngest boy an energy bar and the boy just scowled at him.

The four SEALS moved to a different location in the mountains only to still be found by the Taliban. While running from the Taliban they fell down several hills and cliffs but somehow Marcus’ gun stayed with him the whole time. They suffered many injuries like broken bones, and severe cuts. Mikey got a wound in his stomach from being shot during a fall. Axe and Danny were found soon after but they plummeted down another cliff. They all were firing up at the Taliban when they were not falling; Mikey and Danny were both bleeding heavily. Danny and Marcus were working together with Marcus carrying Danny at the end. Danny got shot in the head and he died in Marcus’ arms.

Marcus, Axe, and Mikey headed to flat ground. When they were on flat ground Mikey went out into an open field on a hill with a phone and called HQ while shots were being fired around him “My men are taking heavy fire…we’re getting picked apart. My guys are dying out here… we need help”. Right there Mikey was shot in the back, fell to his knees and dropped the phone. He braced himself and picked up the phone again and said “Roger that, sir. Thank you”. He staggered back to original position. He began fighting again. They repositioned around boulders and continued fire. Suddenly Mikey called out “Help me, Marcus! Please, help me!” Marcus tried to find a way to get to Mikey but there was no way to get to him without dying on the way there. Mikey screamed for a few seconds, but it stopped. Mikey had died.

Marcus and Axe fought even though they were crawling, bleeding out, and suffering many broken bones. Marcus was pulling Axe, but Axe was still firing rounds. The Taliban threw a grenade and separated Axe and Marcus by thousands of feet. Axe died soon after, but Marcus survived and still lives today.

Marcus was taken in by a few people in a village that found him. He was fed and given water; they stopped the bleeding and the children in the village came to him and talked and played with him every day. Soon a helicopter came and brought him back to the US. When he was in a hospital he was told that 16 other men died in a helicopter that the Taliban shot down as they were trying to help him.

I think it is very important that kids should know about these honorable men that served. Many don’t, the ones that do only know because I did a report on it in front of my class. Or they saw the movie and probably thought it was some action movie, and not everything in the movie is true! Most of the kids I’ve asked about Operation Red Wings have no idea at all! If I ask them about almost any war they don’t understand nearly how many men and women died in past wars or what they did and why.

Children and teens are obsessing over superheroes like Captain America, Hulk, and Iron man when they have no idea who the real Heroes are! If I asked a friend of mine “Do you know of any the military men who died in the past week?” the response would most likely be a blank face. On 9-11 I asked kids what they thought it was and I got things like “It’s when America fought back!” and only a few people knew what really happened.

Michael Murphy and Matthew Axelson
Michael Murphy and Matthew Axelson

In my school we all had to do a report on someone who changed the world and made a difference. I did my report on Marcus Luttrell and kids in my class did it on football players, authors like Dr. Seuss, singers, and movie stars. I think students of all ages should know about the men that served, I hope you think the same. These men died in Operation Red Wings: LT Michael P. Murphy, STG2 Matthew Axelson, GM2 Danny Dietz, FCC Jacques J. Fontan, ITCS Daniel R. Healy, LCDR Erik S. Kristensen, ET1 Jeffery A. Lucas, LT Michael M. McGreevy, Jr., QM2 James E. Suh, HM1 Jeffrey S. Taylor, MM2 Shane E. Patton, Staff Sgt. Shamus O. Goare, Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature, Sgt. Kip A. Jacoby, Sgt. 1st Class Marcus V. Muralles, Master Sgt. James W. Ponder III, Maj. Stephen C. Reich., Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell, and Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach. Those men are the real heroes, without them we would not have our country. Without Hulk we would not have an extra movie to watch. Most kids don’t know that.

“Heroes are made in the hour of defeat. Success is, therefore, well described as a series of glorious defeats.” Mahatma Ghandi

Are you a parent? Grandparent? Step-parent? Whether or not you realize it, any contact whatsoever with today’s young, impressionable generation gives you a chance the chance to leave a mark, good or bad. Even brief interactions are often emblazoned forever on their minds; kids of all ages absorb more than many adults seem to understand. In fact, for Grace, the idea of heroes wasn’t just something written in a report. She speaks of the heroes in her life, and when she does, she isn’t talking about actors or athletes. There are heroes all around, you simply have to keep your eyes open. Are you raising your child to show respect and gratitude to service members? It takes only a moment to approach men wearing ball caps marked with their service and offer your genuine appreciation. How hard is it, really, to pause at the grocery store, look them in the eye, shake their hand, and say thank you?

“As you get older, it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.” Ernest Hemingway

Your own actions don’t just speak louder than words, they shout volumes through a megaphone. Heroism is found in the strangest places and the most unexpected events. That said, heroism is found in our military on a more regular basis than the average American seems to realize. Real heroes are men like SEALs Lt. Michael Murphy, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Axelson, and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, although Luttrell would argue he is not a hero; the men who died on that mountain in the Hindu Kush nine years ago are the real heroes. Take the time to educate someone about Operation Red Wings. Take the time to educate someone about the reality of what makes a hero, heroic. After all, far too many heroes have names that will never be spoken by any but a select few. We must take the time to ensure the memories of real heroes live on in the hearts and minds of our children, and our children’s children. For just one moment, stand in silence, and send your thanks for their sacrifice heavenward. Heroes aren’t found in movie theaters. Heroes really do wear dog tags.

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Katherine Ainsworth

Katherine is a military and political journalist with a reputation for hard-hitting, no-holds-barred articles. Her career as a writer has immersed her in the military lifestyle and given her unique insights into the various branches of service. She is a firearms aficionado and has years of experience as a K9 SAR handler, and has volunteered with multiple support-our-troops charities for more than a decade. Katherine is passionate about military issues and feels supporting service members should be the top priority for all Americans. Her areas of expertise include the military, politics, history, firearms and canine issues.
Katherine Ainsworth
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