Heroes are born and legends are made? I think the saying goes something like that. Anyway, I thought I would do a little piece on heroes and legends. My heroes, of course! But I am open for suggestions. Anyway, for the first entry, there is one instance that always comes to my mind when the talk turns to heroes and legends-Thomas Jefferson Jackson-and I will start off with him.
The flags were bright squares of color in the gray fog of the cannon smoke. The Stars and Stripes came forward while the 1st National of the Confederacy edged backward, but then stopped. Thomas Jackson, his well-thumbed bible safe in his saddlebag, had decreed that this far they would go, but no farther.
Jackson's men stood hard in the smoke and discovered that the hated hours of drill and parade were being transmuted by battle into the unconscious motions of efficiency, and that somehow, despite the flail of Northern canister and musketry, despite the terror of men surrounded by the screaming of the wounded, the sobbing of the dying, and the horrors of shattered flesh and disemboweled friends, their hands kept ramming bullets and charges, kept feeding percussion caps into cones, kept aiming, kept firing. Still kept fighting.
They were terrified, but they had been trained, and the man who had trained them glowered at them, and so they stayed. Like a stone wall built across the hilltop.
And the Northern attack broke on that wall.
Jackson's Virginians should have been swept away like a sand ridge struck by the sea, except they did not know that the battle had been lost and so they fought on, even edged forward, and the Northerners wondered how you were supposed to beat these bastards. Fear started to lodge in the hearts of the Northern Army that day, and the legend was being born even as the Southerners edged forward another step, over the dry grass scorched by burning cartridge wadding.
The Federals started looking behind them for reinforcements, but, while those reinforcements came, the Southern Army was being reinforced as well. Beauregard had finally realized that his entire plan of attack was wrong, but he was rapidly making amends by plucking men from his unbloodied right and hurrying them into the battle. Irwin MacDowell, irritated that such a stubborn defense would delay the sweet moment of victory, ordered more and more men up the slope and right into the range of General Thomas Jackson's rifles.
And thus did the days real dying begin to commence.
It began because a battle of motion, of outflanking, advance and retreat, had become a stand-off fight. The hilltop was bare of trees, devoid of ditch or wall, just an open space for death, and death grasped at it greedily. Men loaded and fired, fell and bled, cursed and died, and still more men filed in to take their place and extend Death's grip on the hilltop. Twin lines of men had stalled just a h8ndred paces apart, and there were trying to blast the guts out of each other.
Men from New York and New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts shot at men from Mississippi and Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas, Maryland and Tennessee. The wounded crawl;ed back to collapse in the grass, the dead were hurled aside, the files closed on the center, the regiments shrank, yet still the firing went on beneath the bright squares of color.
The Northerners, firing again and again into the Confederate lines, knew that they only needed to break this one small army, capture Richmond, and the whole concept of a Southern Confederacy would collapse like a rotten pumpkin, and all that was standing between them and complete victory was this one small man. Standing like a stone wall, stopping them from advancing any farther.
Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.
This man knew, just as those Southerners, returning bullet for bullet, knew that the North, once bloodied, would think twice before they dared invade the sovereign and sacred soil of the South again.
And so, for their twin cause, men fought and died for what they believed in beneath the colors. But that day, the Southerners were led by a legend, while the North was defeated by a hero.
Marion Robert Morrison
Marion was a pretty good actor in his time, having made over 170 movies in his career. He was known for his rugged masculinity, his distinctive calm voice and walk, and his height. He was a Freemason, earning that organizations highest rank and honors. Originally a socialist, he quickly became a life-long republican, who extolled the American virtues of hard work, fearlessness, leadership, and courage. While perhaps best known for his works in early western movies produced by John Ford, he also became a movie hero in the war/combat genre and enjoyed a long run of popularity there, with other wildly successful films scattered throughout his three decades in the industry, ending up as a director/producer of major Hollywood motion pictures, both his own as well as others.
During his 30 year Hollywood career, Marion received Academy Awards, Oscars, a Golden Globe, the Henrietta Award, the Cecil B. DeMille Award, he was a top box-office draw for over 30 years, and he was voted the all-time top money making star by his peers.
The world knows Marion by his more famous name-John Wayne. His movies are legend, and they describe a country that the majority of today's world still believes was real and not just Hollywood magic. He was, more than anyone else, the "Cowboy" of legend, the war hero, the man who, no matter what the bad guys might throw at him, would not only win, but win with honor. After all, who can forget "the one-eyed, drunken sheriff" Rooster Cogburn? Or the man who made criminals and cowards cower in "McClintock"? Then you have the patriotic John Wayne in "The Sands Of Iwo Jima" and all of the other great war movies he made. And lets not forget the offerings such as "McQ"!
John Wayne has had his name become iconic as well, because of these very qualities-how many of you have ever used "John Wayne Toilet Paper (it's rough, tough, and doesn't take shit off anyone!)?"
John Wayne, at least for Americans, was what every red-blooded man aspired to be, knowing deep within their hearts that only the Duke could be that good. He embodied everything that was good and right in the world-courage, decency, fearlessness, bravery, and honor, just to name a few-and was the embodiment of "The American Way".
For all of these accomplishments, for his ability to make you believe that America was the best place on the planet, and that her people were better, stronger, somehow tougher than everyone else, I place Marion squarely in the "Legend" column!
The firemen, EMT's, Emergency Rescue, and-even though I hate to say it-the cops. These men and women get paid shit wages, work long hours and, by and large, do not get anywhere near the respect that they deserve. They willingly place themselves into danger time and time again, yet very rarely get recognized for what they do.
These people are more than just the ambulance crew, the fire department, or the fucking cops. They are more than just the people you hope you never have to see or call.
These people are the last line of defense against the barbarians at the gates.
They are the ones that show up when the government cannot be bothered or is too busy playing power games, when there is no one else to turn to, and when the situation becomes life or death.
They are heroes-in every sense of the word-so let them know that they are appreciated whenever you get a chance.
This is one that really should have gone first! To me, my dad was a mix of Captain America, Superman, and John Wayne! He was my hero, in every sense of the word, and the one who I looked up to more than anyone else. He was everything that I ever wanted to be-kind, honest, brave, hard-working, and a loving parent. We have often had our differences, and even a few knock down drag out fights, but he was always there for me-no questions asked-when I really needed him.
Everything that is really important, I learned from my dad. How to say "thank you" and I'm sorry", how to say "I love you", to know that your word, freely given, is the most powerful thing you have and a contract that is not to be broken, to know when to bend to keep from breaking and to know when to stand tall and strong. He taught me honor and trust and truth, and that real men do, in fact, cry.
My dad, the hero. Maybe only to me, but that is more than enough!
With all of the recent attention given to Mr Robinson via the latest movie about his life and experiences, as well as the honors that the entire baseball world has awarded him with, I thought he deserves a mention in this column.
I do not know much about Mr. Robinson, while I am a baseball fan, he is from another era, and outside of my "realm", I guess. I am a Cubs fan-first, last, and always-and my knowledge of them is both wide and deep, but the history of baseball itself? Not me.
But think about this for a minute-you are an athlete, a professional in every sense of the word, you are good-really good-and you live in a country where race is a dividing issue.
Then think about being on the wrong side of that color line.
You cannot eat, sleep, sit, travel, and in some cases, associate in a public place, with a white man. A white man who is a member of the same team that you are, and in all likelihood, less skilled than you are. White men who are utterly convinced that you are inferior-in race, breeding, and every other category that defines a man, that tell you these things in a condescending tone and manner, as if they are somehow "enlightening" you, and that refuse to believe that your skills should be allowed to speak for themselves.
Now, do this every day. Live it, from the moment you were born. Grow up and be formed and molded and influenced by these, and other attitudes that were just as wrong.
And then rise above it. Set the world on fire, and change the way people think forever-about sports, about your race, and about you.
I think that those qualifications are more than enough to get you a prominent spot among heroes and legends!