I stood at the gravesite and thought deeply. Behind me were the final resting places of hundreds of men who gave their lives in the Civil War. Directly in front of me lay the remains of Chris Kyle, the brave Special Forces warrior whose story has been re-told in the recent movie, "American Sniper." After months of hearing about this remarkable man, I now found myself here - taking pictures at his gravesite. Oddly enough, I never watched the movie for reasons expressed in an earlier blog post titled: "Why I Chose Not To Go See 'American Sniper.'" But I was now standing on this hallowed ground and paying my respects to a brave man.
This was not the first time I have ever stood at a place like this. I have visited the graves of many fallen soldiers over the years. In fact, every Memorial Day, I visit the National Cemetery on the military base near where I live. There is a special kind of peace I feel when I come to these cemeteries. It is in these places that the price of freedom is truly felt and understood. Each of these individuals believed in serving a purpose greater than their own and each was willing to give their very life for that cause. Incredible, isn't it?
As I pondered these thoughts, I also reflected on something else that had taken place in the days prior to my arriving at Chris Kyle's grave. Just a short time before, I had spent several days with a friend of mine who is a seasoned combat veteran. During his twelve years in the Marine Corps, he served four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and knows the cost of liberty very well. In the time we were together, he shared a lot with me about his service, and I came away realizing an important truth: the true heroes aren't necessarily the ones that you see in uniform every day. The true heroes are the ones you least expect, the ones you, perhaps, think little of. As my friend pointed out, the warriors who really deserve medals for their bravery are usually the ones who will never speak of what they did. Sometimes, their stories die with them. And that's the way they want it.
With that perspective, I stood there and stared at the simple grave. If one did not know the whole story, they would never guess that such a courageous individual lies beneath that soil. All the marker says is just, "Christopher Kyle 1974-2013." That's it. Humble yet profound. True heroes never brag, never boast, and usually shy away from the limelight and give the credit to someone else. And, when it comes to the military personnel, they'll usually tell you that the ones who deserve the title of "hero" are the ones who did their mission in the most selfless way possible: the ones who never came home. They sealed their sacrifice and commitment with their own life and blood. While Chris Kyle never gave his life in combat, he did end up giving his life to help another troubled veteran.
It takes something special to be a hero, and it's usually not something that you seek. You will probably never know if you have what it takes to be a hero until you find yourself in that crisis moment for which you were destined. Although you may want to be, you will most likely never know if you are a hero or not. Others will attempt to decide that for you. But, whether that title is attached to your name or not, be brave at what you do. Go at life hard for the right reasons. Have faith in God and do your duty well. This is what makes a hero what they are…and just maybe, we will discover each of us has a little part of one inside ourselves that is just waiting for its chance to come forth.