Editor's Note: Joshua is the winner of a recent Voice of Democracy Contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Thomson. Below is Joshua's speech.
Every so often, there come along certain people who leave lasting memories through their unforgettable actions. We often refer to these people as heroes, and though I know this country has seen many heroes, their nativity as heroes is debatable. Was it simply existing in the right place at the right time? Did they fill a certain need in the hearts and minds of the American people? Or was the making their heroism a journey or an active choice made by the individual?
I can not say with certainty either way, but I believe heroes are born through a slight mixing of the two. Therefore, even in times that lack the driving need of an American James Bond to save the world, heroes can be created. Heroes are not limited to fictitious super-humans with great strength, cunning, wealth and riches. They are people who are willing to stand up to do the right thing when the situation demands such of them.
With this broad definition, "heroes" are readily found throughout America. From people who aid each other in the Midwest, or through severe storms and blizzards in New England, to California, where wildfires and mudslides are as seasonal and expected as rain and snow, people pitch in from all over the country. In May, 2007, Greensburg, Kansas was hit with a class EF5 tornado, destroying 95 percent of the homes, and the population dropped from 2,000 to 800. Over the next few weeks, people came from quite some distances to help, including the state capital, Wichita, 100 miles due east. After the reconstruction, Greensburg is truly green, one of the most ecologically friendly cities in the country. Today, it has reclaimed approximately 400 citizens in population of approximately 1,200 (U.S. Census Bureau). In the case of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Professional Women's Barrel Racing, members sent financial aid as well as feed and other goods for livestock to victims of California's wildfires. America, as a whole, has each other's backs.
While some heroes confirm their status as firefighters, police, EMS or even simply concerned neighbors and fellow Americans, other manifest themselves as armed service personnel. These men and women volunteer, even during war times, to fight and protect their fellow Americans from terror, fear and the loss of our liberties. These liberties, such as our religion or the ability to voice our thoughts, our right to be treated fairly, with justice, and our right to choose who governs us, we hold so dear, so close, that we barely even realize that they can be removed from us. Many of these brave people offer up their lives, time, loved ones, peace of mind and much more, to fight fights not begun by them, for reasons they may not understand, for causes they may not believe in. They travel over seas to places such as Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Places that grow increasingly dangerous and chaotic. However, they do it for their friends, family and other people dear to them whom they place above themselves.
And I believe this is the other, final definition of a hero: A person whom we hold in a higher esteem than ourselves because he/she has placed another person or cause before themselves. They are people who we look up to because their actions are greater than what we believe we would do in certain situations, and as such, heroes are revealed daily.