Friday, November 16, 2007

Where Have All Our Heroes Gone?

We are at a loss for true heroes. Our diminishing of heroes is especially prevalent in the sports world. Barry Bonds breaks the all time Home Run record amidst the hovering stench of accusations of steroid usage. Political figures are accused of financial improprieties. Entertainment divas are succumbing to drug and alcohol addictions left and right.

A few years back NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barclay claimed he was not a role model. Does that go for Barry Bonds or Michael Vick or Brittney Spears? Does anybody want to take responsibility for their actions?

In a World Net Daily article Star Parker addressed Barclay’s shrugging off responsibility as a role model: "If Charles Barkley, with all the blessings this country has cast his way, took a humble moment to look at reality, there is no way he could flippantly dismiss his responsibilities as a public figure."

Parker continues, "His {Barclay's] claim that responsibility for children's behavior should reside exclusively within the family shows he hasn't bothered in any way to look at his own black community. Very sadly, in most cases, black children have no intact family toward which to turn. Children will look somewhere for guidance. Where does Charles Barkley think these kids are getting their values – and where does he think they are formulating their views about what life is about?"

So where do we go for values? Where are the heroes of our society?

Let me pick a present day hero for you: Marine Lance Corporal Rogelio A. Ramirez.

When Ramirez was a young man, he became fascinated with the Marines. He saw ads to join the Marines on billboard. He felt a sense of power from the Marines, especially the uniforms with the crossed swords.

Soon after the U.S. went into Iraq he announced to his family he was going to enlist in the Marine Corp. He was only 16. His mother prayed the war would be over before he was old enough. He finally joined the Corp Infantry when he was 19. It was all he thought about. His father, a veteran of a local militia during the Salvadorian civil war, tried to talk him out of it. Young Ramirez felt his father was interfering with his needing to grow up.

After overcoming the protests of his parents, Marine recruiters formed the next obstacle for Rogelio. They told him he needed to pass a GED-general equivalency diploma-exam and complete 15 credits.

His mother felt relieved since she assumed her son would not want to go back to school. Over the next year Rogelio showed the discipline necessary as he had never shown before. He was determined to become a Marine. He went to night school and earned a GED. Then he entered Pasadena City College taking Spanish, Italian and math.

After finishing school and poised to enter the Corp, Ramirez discovered he still owed $1200 in truancy fines from his days of ditching high school. This dampened his chances to enter the Marines since the Corp doesn't take recruits with lending legal problems.

One other obstacle for Rogelio was about to be scaled. He found a night job at McDonald's while attending college during the day. It took a year . . . but he paid off his fines.

One other thing . . . Marines also don't accept recruits with certain tattoos. Ramirez had a tattoo on his left hand which showed he was a member of a gang. He never was a member of a gang but he got the tattoo a number of years before as a prank. With a scissors he painfully removed the tattoo himself.

Ramirez passed the Marine entrance exam and left for induction right before his birthday June 30, 2006. A year later in July he was sent to Iraq. He became a machine gunner on an armored vehicle.

On one occasion, the night of August 25, Ramirez had gone out on patrol. When his convoy was attacked, he was able silence several insurgent machine gun positions, providing cover that allowed Marines to evacuate the wounded. The next day officers asked for volunteers to go out again the night of August 26th. Rogelio volunteered to go out a second night when most soldiers would have passed.

On patrol that night an explosive device hit his vehicle and Marine Lance Corporal Rogelio A. Ramirez was killed instantly.

Ramirez had left behind a child he had with his girlfriend Carla Lopez.

Four days before he left for the war, he had these words by English philosopher John Stuart Mill tattooed on his right side:

War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." That's my hero. A man with purpose. Determination. A role model. Who needs Charles Barclay when we have Marine Lance Corporal Rogelio A. Ramirez.

The heart and sacrifice of this young man demonstrate to me that we still have heroes.

No comments: