Why I never joined the VFW.
I agree with Hayes’ point if not necessarily his reasoning. I think the term “hero” should be reserved for soldiers who perform acts of bravery above and beyond the call of duty. Just joining up and serving, even when it ends in death, may be noble and patriotic, but it isn’t heroic.
Those millions of World War I soldiers who assaulted enemy trenches with nothing to block enemy machine gun bullets but their chests performed acts of sacrifice and devotion that are just about incomprehensible viewed from this distance. But they weren’t heroes. They were just soldiers doing their duty. As one U.S. gunnery sergeant, himself a two-time Medal of Honor winner, famously said before leading an attack in the Belleau Wood, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”