Heroes We Know And Never Really Knew

Photograph of the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, D.C. Luis Cotto-Vasallo. It symbolizes the tribute we pay to all veterans of all wars who fought with such devotion and dedication to keep us free.

He was just a nice little man who lived down the street in my hometown.

He smiled a lot.

He waved a lot.

I knew him.

But I never met him.

His was just another face on the streets of Kilgore.

My mother pointed him out one morning as we were walking out of the Big Grocery store. “See that man?” she said.

I nodded.

“He’s a hero,” she said.

He smiled.

I waved.

He waved back.

He was the only hero I ever heard say, “Hello.”

His name was James M. Logan. He had marched away from Kilgore when Hitler marched across Europe and became one of the many who never expected to return.

He did.

It wasn’t easy.

James Logan had defied a dreaded German stronghold beyond the beaches of Salerno, crawling across an open field, knocking out one machine gun after another, picking off Nazi snipers, moving on ahead of his unit, and providing critical information on Panzer tank units.

Time and again, he ran out of ammunition and came back for more.

He refused to quit.

James M. Logan thought he could whip the whole damn German army. He was from East Texas, you know.

One man stood in a clear and present danger.

One man remained standing when the German soldiers broke and ran.

He may have been standing, but his leg was shattered with shrapnel.

James Logan had fought his bravest battle.

He had fought his last battle.

He was a wounded warrior who came home.

“Why is he a hero?” I asked my mother as he drove out of the parking lot.

“He won the Congressional Medal of Honor,” she said.

“What’s that?”

She smiled.

“Someday you’ll know,” she said.

It’s someday, and I know.

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day, and we remembered.

We see them every day, survivors of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They are our heroes.

But we never know what they faced or how trying their circumstances were. We never know, and seldom do any of them tell us. We don’t live with their memories and their demons. We don’t know why so many of them can’t sleep at night.

But to veterans all, I would like to say thank you.

For James M. Logan, in particular, I would like give a special thanks.

He waved at me once.

He was my hero in a day when I had no idea what heroes were.


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