My father-in-law was one of those quiet guys who had a secret. He had a box full of medals from World War II, which he didn’t display and didn’t brag about, but the grandkids could ask to see them and he’d let them look at them, and maybe say a few reluctant words about what they were for, if pressed. He was a Marine, and not one of those REMFs, either — he’d been one of the defenders on Midway atoll, and had been boots on the ground in the Iwo Jima landing, and had fought in the jungles of Guadalcanal. I may be a pacifist myself, but I had to respect the personal bravery of a guy who experienced some of the fiercest fighting in the war, and he earned every one of those medals.
So now the US military is considering awarding medals for heroism to goddamned drone pilots: people who sit in an air-conditioned bunker far from the frontlines, playing a video game that lets them turn distant human beings into bugsplats. There is no risk here, except maybe for carpal tunnel inflammation, and there is no sacrifice, no bravery, no struggle. They’ve done nothing to earn recognition for heroism.
Maybe it’s just as well the older generation is dying off. I would think it hard to attend a veteran’s meeting and compare your medal for storming a machine gun nest to the medal some guy got for flying a model airplane. Heroes just aren’t what they used to be.