Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 3, 2015

When the Word ‘Hero’ Gets in the Way

Army Capt. Benjamin Summers says that calling everyone in the armed services a “hero” is hardening the military-civilian gap and impeding “a more nuanced appreciation of service and to produce better policy in Washington.”

In an essay for the Washington Post, Summers writes: “Too much hero-labeling reinforces a false dichotomy that’s commonly heard in our political discourse: You’re either for the troops or you’re against them.”

He applies that thought to a few important policy areas, such as defense spending:

If we’re not searching for opportunities to fix, clean and trim our organizations, we’re not being good stewards of them. When we can’t have political discussions that dig beneath the blanket of “for or against the troops,” palatability wins over stewardship.

And the VA scandals:

Are there too many claims? How many caught in the backlog suffered a combat-related injury? If we added scrutiny to who qualifies for VA benefits, would the system function better? In the current environment, it’s just not politically palatable to ask these kinds of questions. You can’t make America’s heroes wait.

It’s not the first time that the “not everyone is a hero” argument has appeared on the pages of a major newspaper. Iraq War veteran Dan Gomez made similar points in the New York Times in 2011, and retired Air Force officer William J. Astore wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 2010 that overusing the word “hero” downplays the brutality of war.

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