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Homework: Unsung Heroes

THE ASSIGNMENT: " In less than 200 words, explain why someone is an unsung hero to you."

(Note: all those who did not list their location are listed as hailing from Aberdeen.)

Steven in Burnsville, MN:
(to the tune of "Battle Hymn of the Republic")

Bill Beery was a rifleman in 1943,
He was a banker in his twenties, just a man like you and me.
With a wife and baby, still he had to join the infantry,
And he headed off to war.

For three months he served in combat and he did his very best.
Eighty-seven days of hell he struggled on without a rest.
In the Battle of the Bulge he took a bullet in the chest
And they sent him home from war.

When he got his discharge papers, he went home to see his wife.
He spent a month recuperating from the bloodshed and the strife.
Then he went right back to banking, taking up his former life,
When we met he was 94.

We talked one summer day about his memories and fears,
While he told his story he broke down in unexpected tears.
The memories had bridged a gap of many busy years,
Back to 1944.

He isn’t in the songs of praise that anybody sings,
He just says that in the war “we did some necessary things.”
But if you ask me he’s a hero, rising high on glorious wings.
Now he is unsung no more!

James in Aberdeen:
The unsung hero of my life would be my adoptive family, the Brynestads. These people took me in when I was running away from my abusive home and without making a big deal about it made me one of their own. I was a terrified 18 year old, who had no clue what to do with a family that loved him and cared and they taught me how. They tolerated my bullshit then and three years later they do now. They saved me from not only a terrible situation but also from a life of cynicism about family life. And they don’t get near enough credit for this, even though I’m not the first person they’ve done this for. It’s because of them I’ve made the choice to adopt when I’m settled and it’s because of them I went to college instead of spending the rest of my days wage slaving in a grocery store.

Kenneth of Queens, NY:
Sir Francis Drake!

He was a un-unsung hero in his lifetime, but now hardly anyone seems to know the name of the first captain to circumnavigate the globe! (Magellan died 'cuz he's a pussy) And to top it off, he didn't even do it on purpose, he was just running from the Spanish, who he had just robbed, and like a dog being chased by a five year old around a REALLY big table, figured that if he kept going around, he'd end up back home eventually . . .

David in Marysville, WA:
Musicians. We, as consumers, give them money and sometimes all we get back is music, but occasionally, something special happens. We manage to connect so deeply with a song or an album that we just cannot stop listening and it seems like the song or album becomes a part of our being. 

As teenagers, sometimes these songs, albums, even entire discographies become crutches and the soundtracks of our lives. The impact caused by these people we know next to nothing about is so impossible to describe, perhaps because it seems so easy to feel. Events in seemingly insignificant lives might be changed all because one song, album, or artist never existed.

Without these musicians, some of our closest friends might be dead because the songs are never written. Some people might never meet because an album was never recorded. Lifelong relationships might become mere fantasies because those perfect mix tapes people made each other never happened. Some of the happiest moments in someone’s life might be destroyed because an artist was never discovered.

Cliché perhaps, but who better to call a hero than those who save others by doing the one thing that is sometimes necessary to save themselves?

Yuri in Waterville, ME:
Professors, Teachers, Educators, Leaders, Guiders;

Over the past 17 years, I have complained, grumbled, and outright said that you are slave-drivers, unrealistic old people, and (on occasion) out of touch with the real world. For those things, I apologize.

I not only apologize for myself, but I apologize for the actions of everyone you teach. We are not always the most respectful nor are we the brightest in the mornings after a late night of reading. But, we are each and every one of us there to learn.

That's where you come in.

As I said, it's been 17 years since I formally entered the school system, but it's been my entire lifetime since I began learning. I learned from you, my teachers of life. But, it's not just those above us whom we learn from; I have learned from peers, colleagues and even those younger than myself who are considered to be 'ignorant'.

Who are my heroes? Anyone who has a specialty. Anyone who has an interest. Anyone who can tell me something that I didn't already know, even if it's "I'm hungry right now."

Thank you to those people who inform, educate, and make me a better person.

Kevin in Buffalo:
There is a difference between not famous and unsung. That person who really helped you out that one time when you were totally stranded, who you thanked profusely for their help, but who you've never talked about since then. That person is unsung. And that is why they are.

Katie in Toronto:
Friend to all mankind
Speaking in every language to communicate to the world, space, underwater and beyond,
Seen and studied every relevant equation in mathematics
Shortening his life for the services of others
He is our hero: the pencil. (We use the masculine pronoun because in French it is.)

Savanna in Ohio:
Anyone who has ever convinced another person not to commit suicide is a hero in the purest sense of the word. That person has saved a life. It doesn't get much more heroic than that.

Slade in Juneau:
Yesterday's tomorrow was a land with little food.
Too little land, too many folks let to lots of starving dudes.
Sci-fi tales of woe and sadness, cities cramped and tall,
towering over agrarian pastures that couldn't feed them all.
Farm techniques required what today is called "organic"
and with just too little science, it seemed that it was time to panic.

But then, before all hope was lost, a hero saved the day.
His name was Norman Borlaug, and it was up to him to say
that veggies and fruits were all very good, but indeed, they could be better.
So he made strains that grew anywhere and by disease were unfettered.
Farming became efficient, widespread, and crops died quite a bit less.
Why are we forgetting what he taught us? It's anyone's guess.

Minnie from Raleigh, NC:
My unsung hero is Charles Goodyear. In 1839 he invented hard "vulcanized" rubber that was later used to make ice hockey pucks. Why is this my hero? Because without him we'd still be playing hockey with frozen horse shit.

Steve in Mesa, AZ:
Robert Ingersoll is almost forgotten today, but at the height of his career, he was one of the most influential orators and freethinkers in America. He was a great student of liberalism and an emancipator of minds. He anticipated many 20th-century struggles, such as that of women for the right to vote, and the failed attempts in the 1920s to break the cycles of racism in America. 

Ingersoll championed the separation of church and state, the advancement of and investment in the sciences, and was a proponent of free and quality education for the public. His belief in the inherent dignity and equality of humanity strengthened the foundations of what grew into the American humanist movement. 

Ingersoll was an example of what one person can achieve when they free themselves from dogma and lockstep-prejudice with their culture. His quotes survive to this day in great number, but of the man himself there are few statues and far less commemorations than there damn well ought to be.

Ben in Aberdeen, Israel:
I think my hero is Bruce Sacerdote.  I heard him on the Freakononmics hour special on parenting. 

Here is why he's my hero and should be yours too.  His child used to throw tantrums every time they wanted to leave the park -- so one day HE ACTUALLY DID IT.  He got in the car and his poor child RAN after the car in an attempt to catch up -- AND HIS CHILD NEVER COMPAINED AGAIN about leaving the park.  (He did have backup watching his child, but that still takes guts!)

Cameron in Aberdeen:
As for my unsung hero, I believe in Aquaman. He is made fun of by all the other superheroes, and really, the rest of the world. Sure, unless a crime were to happen underwater he is useless, but he is still my unsung hero. I doubt anyone has ever drowned at a pool party of his, and, come on, he can talk to dolphins. Not to mention he carries around a trident. Also, there are no songs about him. So in a literal way, he is unsung. I don't think he gets a lot of credit for all his great attributes. That is why he is my unsung hero.

Joseph in Seattle, WA:
Several years ago, I was working with a theatrical production. It was backstage during the final night of the show, and as such, strict silence was called for. It had been a long week, and I was feeling pretty rough. This was noticed by one of the actresses. I didn't know her at all and never saw again afterward, but she sat down next to me and told me through the use of body language and gesture that I had a beautiful smile and should smile more often. Now, anytime I feel down, I just remember what she "said" to me. The way I see it, anyone who can show someone the value of a smile is at least a tiny bit heroic.

Maggie in Moscow, ID:
I wasn't going to submit, then I was, then I wasn't, then I decided that regardless of how heroic he is to anyone else, my brother is still my hero.

He's not particularly smart, he utterly lacks common sense, and he's disturbingly prone to saying exactly the wrong thing. He's gone through life taking crap from no one while still remaining one of the kindest, most sensitive men I know.

My brother is two years older than I. While our parents were going through the divorce, when home was not a safe place to be, he found reasons to run around the farm with me, whether we were pretending we were Ninja Turtles or building our treehouse. A then nine-year-old boy knew enough to protect his younger sister from everything she didn't need to hear from her parents.

Now we're six hours apart, we barely talk. We're each married and at entirely different stages in life - I'm in grad school, he's a college dropout-turned-store manager - and yet I know if I need to talk to someone, I could call him at 3 AM and he wouldn't complain that it's 3 AM. He'd just ask what was wrong.

Nir in King of Prussia:
Unsung hero... who?