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Columns : Editorial

Who's A Warrior?

It takes more than just pinning on a badge to become a hero.

January 01, 2002  |  by Roy Huntington

I've had about enough of this "warrior" malarkey. Every time I turn around I'm confronted with seminars, articles and mutual admiration societies, all purporting to celebrate and honor the "warrior-cop." Carefully placing a medallion emblazoned with the word "Warrior" onto your desk in a plastic holder does not the warrior make ... necessarily.

These days it seems the act of becoming a cop rather than a truck driver or schoolteacher suddenly makes someone into a warrior. I don't think so. I know too many cops who are decidedly not warriors, and you know some too. A real warrior-hero is a rare bird.

The fellows and ladies who tough it out, work the grind, fight the daily fights and get some blood on themselves now and again are legion, and I respect them, admire them and honor them. I was one of them. But are they, and are we (who put our 20 in without significant heroics or warrior-like displays of valor) really comfortable when people call us "warriors and heroes?" I'm sure not.

I think back to San Diego Officer Gary Mitrovitch who stood up to Joselito Cinco, after Cinco shot and killed two of Gary's squad-mates. Gary got shot, returned fire and gave what aid he could to his friends who lay bleeding on the ground that dark night.

Warrior. Hero.

I think of those cops who stood their ground in the 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery and returned fire, toe-to-toe with those heavily armed sociopathic demons. Undergunned, they ran to the attack and returned fire even as the suspects' bullets crashed through what little cover they had. As I watched those SWAT cops engage the final suspect at car-length distance there was no doubt I was watching warriors ... and heroes.

Let's re-think this whole trend. Let's not water-down the meaning of the words. Being a cop can be frustrating, agonizing, painful and mind-numbingly boring, all in the same day. But sometimes, just sometimes, there are those rare moments when those who dare, those who can and those who will, are suddenly called upon to do the impossible, to face the tiger and to overcome their fears and common sense.

At that moment, during that microcosm of cataclysmic endeavor, heroes are born from warriors. Moments before, they may have simply been Officer Hughes, father, husband and squad-mate. But, for the demands necessary during a freeze-frame in time, they become something they might not have thought possible. Suddenly, what needs to be done is rendered in graphic clarity before their blood-stung eyes and they reach, they strive, they do that impossible thing that needs doing ... and they become more than their collective prior deeds had made them only a few heartbeats before.

The warrior within pushes out and another hero is born from raw stock. And the rest of us are humbled and proud and stronger for it. And we are also anxious. Anxious, as we wonder if we could do the same.

When I'm in the presence of real heroes, real warriors like my friend Lt. Commander Dick Best, I am awed and am quick to admit it. Dick flew a dive-bomber in the Battle of Midway and his attack squadron sank two Japanese carriers. Dick flew his dive-bomber into the teeth of the Japanese gunfire, fighters and anti-aircraft fire. My friend looked death directly into the eye and then flew into it, knowing he would probably die in a fireball of exploding gas and bombs. That's a hero.

Dick died recently and the world is a worse place for his passing. We can't demean the deeds of our few, real warrior-heroes by watering-down those important words.

One of the old soldiers interviewed for the Band of Brothers series on TV said: "My kids asked me if I was a hero in the war. I told them no ... but I walked with heroes."

I have walked with heroes and am proud to have known them. Honor them with the respect they richly deserve ... and let's not over-use those precious, important words.

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