How life has changed in such short a time.
Do we really understand the meaning of a simple four letter word?
However you define the title of hero, the label dares us to ask what we would do in situations such as these.
Would we charge into blasts of battlefield gunfire to save our comrades? To save civilians that we’ll never see again? Would we sign up for active duty in the first place?
Following orders from superiors that could result in your death, but doing it anyway. Acting out of loyalty and dedication instead of self-serving means. To act in spite of being afraid, instead of being void of fear.
Who do you know who is truly worthy of being called a Hero.
As a private soldier, I gazed up at an old black and white photograph hung on the corridor wall of our barracks.
There was a face; a soldier in uniform, not covered in medals or ribbons and badges, but two simple white stripes on his sleeve arm. He looked like anyone else.
Please read his amazing story.
I suppose as an ex military man, to me the word Hero meant someone who had not thought of himself and put the needs of others first. A person putting the safety of others first.
But then I think back to a image I lost along the way. A simple image of the front of a motorcycle bearing the number seven on it.
It was 1973, and as I stood beside the Oulton Park race track I heard the sound of the two stroke engine screaming out as it hit the first bend.
There he was – my hero Barry Sheene; the world number one, he would stare death in the face many times that single race.
Sheene’s high-speed crashes during his racing days were legendary. In 1975, a blown rear tyre caused him to crash at 175 mph during practice for the Daytona 200 in Florida, shattering his left leg, smashing a thigh, breaking six ribs, fracturing a wrist, and wrecking his collar bone.
Then I hear of Riley Howell. 21 years of age when he gave his life by tackling a Gunman.
Ron says it like this: Your’re sitting in college, in a classroom on a course. You’re sitting in a meeting at work. You are just having a normal day in your life. You sit with your wife, brother, friend, work colleague.
The door bursts open and in rushes a man with a gun.
Without a single thought for yourself you rush forward and tackle him, gun shots ring out in the room.
Four people are lying wounded from gunshots. Your friend is lying dead and sadly you are dead too.
I salute you 21 year old Riley Howard for giving your young life.
You never grew up to see the world. Never spent the next meal with your family.
But the four people you saved will grow old and hopefully will say they knew a hero worthy of the title – Riley Howard.
Ron’s All Time Hero
Standing 7,985 miles away from home, I gaze down at the grave, a grave in the middle of nowhere. Cold and windy, the hills stretch for miles out to the Atlantic.
The Cross has an inscription – Capt John Hamilton, Died In Action, June 10th 1982.
I think to myself was this where he fell? And who was he?
I bow my head and say:
‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’
I take two photographs of the cross. I don’t know why I did, but I still have them safe in my album.
After 38 years I come across them again as I write ✍ my life through the Camera stories.
The word appears again and again in daily life.
I know the word hero can be defined in so many ways.
I would like my children to know
that just because I was in Northern Ireland twice and The Falklands. I was on active duty protecting people against the enemy that didn’t wear a uniform.
I could have died doing what I joined up for. God was with me on two occasions, otherwise I would not be here writing this now.
Instead I told my children about my running achievements, skiing medals, athletics, cross country, triathlon awards, Best Recruit and Best Pt. Oldest Sgt to pass the Parachute Course in my Corps. My Long Service and Good Conduct Award. How I climbed the highest volcano in Mexico. How I saved a life of a small child from choking on a beach in Cyprus.
So when they say “Dad, or Granddad were you a Hero when you served?”, I will say “No, but I can tell you about a man called John”.
You may rest 7,985 miles away and think that what you did was just your duty but your bravery to save a Signalman is my meaning of hero.
My Hero. R.I.P John.