Show Me A Hero

By Terence T. Gorski
December 12, 2013

Laffey April 10 2010

Photo Credit: Artist Tom W. Freeman’s painting “Trial by Fire” depicts the April 1945 Japanese Kamikaze attack on the destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724).

I was watching a news program at home. The Viet Nam War was on my mind. I was on the short-list for being drafted.
I was still shaken by recently attending funerals of several high school friends who came home from Viet Nam in a box. I was in college and deeply struggling with my position on The War.   I wanted to be the hero. I wanted peace. I didn’t want to go to war. I had “skin in the game” as the saying goes.

A disabled Viet Nam Veteran was on the news. The veteran  stood briefly at a podium and spoke to a gaggle of reporters at a news conference. The veteran stood on his government-issued prosthetic legs. They were not as good as the current issue, but they were the best available at the time.
This veteran was one of the very few who qualified to receive them.  He needed help getting up from his chair.

The veteran was very much the hero. In a strong unshakable voice he put out a message of courage and gratitude for his opportunity to serve God, country, and Viet Nam people. He supported the war even though the war had cost him his legs.

His courage impressed me. I asked my Dad, who was watching the show with me, what he thought.

My Dad was a WW II combat veteran. He watched more than a dozen of his closest friends burn to death in a deluge of flaming gas after a Kamikaze crashed into his transport ship. He watched helplessly as they died before his eyes. There was nothing he could do to save them. He was helpless.

“I guess they were dead already,” my Dad told me in one rare moment of talking about his war. “They were dead, except for the burning and the screaming!” he told me. Then he brushed it all away by saying: “There are some things in life you can’t do anything about.”

“What to you think, Dad?” I asked.

His response burned itself into my mind forever. It wasn’t just the words – it was the pain behind the words. The pain from the deep wounds of his war, WW II,  that he carried in his soul. My Dad did not talk about the war very often. He rarely showed his pain. This was one of a very few times that he did. So I listened carefully.

“It’s easy to be a hero for a few minutes at a time when other people are watching and counting on you to be strong. I wonder what he does in the dark of night when he confronts the demons that ripped off his legs?” ~ Thomas S. Gorski, WW II VETERAN, May he rest in peace.

“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

9 Responses to Show Me A Hero

  1. Steven J Taormina says:

    I also served ..in a small way…a hero none the less…..

    • Terry Gorski says:

      Thank you Steven. We all serve, but a llm of us only in a small way. It is when we serve the same cause of goodness to all people that great things begin to happen. Ideas are powerful when people exchange them with each other. Thank you for sharing your ideas.

      • Steven J Taormina says:

        Beloved respected brother Terry,
        Thank YOU for all the devotion sacrfices and extreme hard dedicated work you have done in The field of Recovery.
        YOU are a TRUE HERO and I am honored to have any correspondence with you.As for your work, It is a corner stone that I have built Christ Centered Recovery on. Again THANK YOU TERRY… You are one of the GREAT ONES that we asll know about… Your a gift from God .
        Your brother/ servant in Christ Jesus
        Steven J Taormina

  2. Guy Lamunyon says:

    I real hero will tell you, “I was just doing my job.” The braggers are likely FAKERS. Any real veteran can produce his discharge papers (DD214) for proof of service. Beware the fakers ! ! !

  3. Ricky Fisk says:

    My dad was shot in the face in WWII by a sniper in the South Seas. It changed his life in a very profound way. He talked freely about all the aspects of his experience during his 3 years there. As a person in 12 step recovery and familiar with what is called “The 12 promises”, my father received them all. I now know he had a sudden spritual experience as he grabbed his head to see if his brains were spilling out, felt as he could not save himself and cried out “Oh God please help me!!”. People who knew him seen him as a truly amazing person and they wanted what he had, peace, joy and a very happy person almost all the time. He died March 30th, 2011 at 92 years old. He was my hero !

    • Terry Gorski says:

      I am grateful for your comment. I am am happy that your father was saved from the soul-rendering horror that plaques so many after war. I wish my father had found that miracle of spiritual awaking. In spite of his belief in God, he had no such miracle.

  4. Daniel Davis says:

    Hello Terry. I will give you my take on what is for me, a deeply moving post. I’ve lived easily with my mixed emotions as a young man with the ‘world by the horn’s’ only to find out that the meaning of life and politics is quite different at 55 years old. I served in the Navy, 2nd class petty officer for for 5 years – 78′ to 83.’ That word ‘hero’ …?…not at all in my mind at the time. Although, as a product of the 70’s, the Viet Nam might as well been a four letter word. There’s a whole bunch here to say Terry, but the ‘gist’ is, I’m very proud NOW, to have served, even though THEN, I thought I needed to stay ‘low profile.’ I’m a bit more mature now, and am completely comfortable with who I am politically speaking. Again, this post moved me deeply, and I’ll be in touch.
    Thank You,
    ~ Dan

    • Terry Gorski says:

      Danial Davis,

      Thank you for your post. As I approach age 65 I am reflecting back and taking stock of my life.

      The Viet Nam Era was a difficult transition for me. My family of origin was chaotic and marked by Catholic Grammar School. This was followed by Catholic High School. When i entered college it was at the hight of the sexual revolution and Timothy Leary was preaching “turn on, tune in, drop out.” I was on a student deferment and to be very honest I had no idea of who I was or what my value were. I had left the Catholic Church and could find no suitable replacement. I was disillusioned with the political leadership of the day. I was trapped behind the lines in the riots at the Chicago Democratic Convention. This was not a poetical statement. It was sheer stupidity. After spending three days living in a war zone being gassed by the National Guard and stalked by blood-thirsty out-of-control Chicago Cops in riot gear who took their badges off — well, let’s say I had a bad taste for government.

      At the time i did not recognize that my father had PTSD from WW II. I didn’t even know what PTSD was and combat was something that happened on the news and in movies. It was only years latter I put together my father’s absence as a parent with his sever combat-related PTSD and the marital problem he and my mother had.

      I have great respect for people who serve. I often lack respect for the civilian authorities who order our military into harms way and then make political decisions to give away what out troops earned in their blood. The troops, however, are not part of the political problems placing the nation. They ar sworn to serve and I respect them for it. I am grateful for yo service.

    • Terry Gorski says:

      Thank you for your comment and your service.

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