I've always felt we do our veterans a real disservice by referring to them as heroes.
Growing up, I always saw soldiers as 'special people'. They were all rough, tough fearless warriors who charged head first into battle with a grin on their faces, safe in the knowledge that the good guys always win.
My attitude was completely changed, believe it or not, by a videogame.
I was playing a WW2 shooter on the PC in my late teens, when it suddenly struck me that what I was playing was based on something people had actually done for real…only getting hit with a machine gun burst didn't mean they'd have to find a health-pack, it meant they died…without the ability to load their last save game.
Something else suddenly occurred to me. As I was sitting there, safe, in my room… I was the same age that most of them where when they were called up.
These soldiers weren't 'special people bred for fighting', they weren't born warriors… they were just regular 18 year old kids like me, who one day got out of bed to find a letter from the Ministry of Defense telling them to report for basic training.
I mentally put myself in that situation and realized just how terrified I'd be. To get up one day and be told I was joining the army, like it or not, and then I'd be off to Europe to get shot at.
I think that, as a generation that hasn't lived through a world war, we don't really understand what it means to be a Hero. A hero isn't a brave warrior charging fearlessly into battle. A hero is a normal, shit-scared kid who, like any sane person, doesn't want to fight and wants to go home…but swallows that fear and fights anyway.
That's something I'm not sure I could do.
So, to all our veterans of all our wars… Thank You.
Thank you for fighting so that people like me don't have to.