During a discussion of family notification about the death of a loved one on the battlefield, Hayes told his panel, "I think it is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the words 'heroes.' Why do I feel so [uncomfortable] about the word 'hero'? I feel comfortable — uncomfortable — about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war."While Hayes went on to say that he didn't mean to disrespect those fallen soldiers who truly were heroes — and even qualified his statement by saying he might be wrong in his thinking — he set off a controversy nonetheless.
I'm about to surprise a bunch of people, and sort of agree with Hayes.
A few years ago, here in Onslow County, NC, we had two firemen killed when they wrecked our firetruck on the way to a fire. The local paper ran a story, "They Died Heroes". I disagree. They took a curve in a road too fast, rolled a $100,000 truck, and died before getting to the fire. Fortunately, the fire was in an abandoned trailer. But, had there been citizen lives in danger, these two firemen actually further endangered them by not getting that truck to the fire.
So I guess my point is, just getting dead doesn't make you a hero.
Hayes also said, in the same segment, that some of our war dead got that way in the midst of actions of extreme heroism. I get what he was saying. All of our war dead should be revered as patriots. They should be lauded for their devotion to freedom. And they shouold be called heroes. But that means those killed in the act of heroism should be called super heroes.