Everyone Is on a Long and Forlorn Search for Goals.
I was reminded of this today in a discussion of a particular American hero who died in Iraq.
The hero, the real hero in this case, was General Patton. He had given up his entire career as a career soldier to devote himself to the Army. He had been an artilleryman who had served in China and the Philippines before fighting at Fort Myer and Fort Benning. He had risen from private to brigadier general who, in 1944, earned a Silver Star.
By late 1944, there was no question in the minds of many in America about his heroism. As a result of his actions, the German Army was broken. His accomplishments were praised by many Americans and, at the time, were made into a hit movie, “Patton.”
But after he had received the Medal of Honor and then became the Army’s first-ever four-star general, things got worse.
For almost a year after he became four-star, he was almost universally lauded for everything he did. He was lauded as a great soldier, and he was praised for everything he did. The generals who had replaced him, however, were not even close. They had never been in combat, and they had to fight against an Army they were unfamiliar with, and they didn’t enjoy.
And what the generals failed to recognize was that General Patton was not a hero until he had the Medal of Honor and then he became a hero and then he received the Medal of Honor.
When America saw Patton receive the Medal of Honor, we were moved as if he had performed something superhuman. We felt as the men under his command, after they had been to battle, did, “We’ve got to hand this guy all the medals out. What a hero. We won’t be able to take a day off from our rest until we hand this guy the last one.”
Patton received his first Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts in Iraq. And the Army kept those medals and distributed them to the troops who had fought with him. When the medals were presented, the men he had led into battle were moved, as if in a dream, as they were each given a medal. It was not just the men who had been to battle who were moved. The officers