Is it strange to say that I look up to a nine-year-old?
A nine-year-old who, a couple of weekends ago, explained to me the rigors of war his father faced and what he was doing to make sure his dad was taken care of when he came home? A nine-year-old who corralled his younger siblings when it was time to go on a hike and kept the peace between the two of them; a nine year old helping to hold his family together while he waits for Dad to come home from Afghanistan?
I met Charlie (not his real name) and a host of other kids just like him at the Sierra Club's Celebration of a Military Child Outdoors (COMCO) at Prince William Forest Park just south of Washington DC.
It was April 1, and we were all at the park to help kick off the month of the military child. Nationwide, April is the month of the military child and different organizations are getting together to support our nation's youngest heroes. It's not too late for you to get involved in your community. Reach out to your local National Guard or Reserve Unit, Blue Star Families, the USO, National Military Family Association or Operation Military Kids to find out if you can help.
In my work as the Sierra Club's Mission Outdoors' Military Families and Veterans Representative, I get to meet a lot of pretty heroic people. I'm fond of saying -- as are many of the partner organizations we work with -- that military children are our youngest heroes. For me, these young people, who have not asked to be a member of the military or veteran community, but are literally born into national service, are heroes. It goes without question in my mind.
So when someone asked me over social media if I was 'lessening the word of hero' by describing military kids as heroes, I was shocked, but decided rather than raging on this soul who likely has not had a chance to meet a military kid, I'd check the definition of a hero with what a military kid did, and see if the two equated.
Hero, from Dictionary.com: a man admired for brave deeds, noble qualities, etc.
Heroic, Freedictionary.com lists synonyms: courageous, brave, daring, intrepid, and valiant.
Next, the action of a military child:
So, yeah, military kids are our youngest heroes, and if someone asks you, "are we diluting the word hero, by equating that word with military kids?" you can tell him or her we're strengthening the word hero, not lessening it, when we use it to describe our Nation's military kids.