The American Hero

My grandfather, Ralph J. Patton, was drafted into the United States Army less than one year after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He was 17 years old. He completed basic training at Fort Jackson in Columbia, SC. From there went to train in Hawaii to prepare for combat in the jungles of the South Pacific.

He was assigned as an ammunition bearer for a 30-caliber light machine gun squad in the 4th Platoon, G Company, 2nd Battalion, 306th Regiment of the 77th Infantry Division. He stayed with the same unit his entire active career.

His first stop was Guam, then Leyete, under the ultimate command of General Douglas MacArthur, as the famous leader sought to make good on his “I shall return” vow to retake the Philippine Islands. After Leyete was reclaimed, he saw action on Tokashikashima, Iashima, and Okinawa. On Okinawa’s infamous “Sugar Hill” he and one fellow soldier were the only survivors from his entire platoon.

He was hospitalized from his battle wounds in May of 1945. Having been discharged from the Army later that year on disability, he was awarded with the Combat Infantry Badge, Asiatic-Pacific Service Medal, Philippine Liberation medal, Good Conduct Medal, and was an expert marksman with an M-1 rifle.

By all accounts, my grandfather was an American Hero. He served faithfully and risked his life protecting our country, and the values that America holds dear.

But heroes are by no means perfect people. Often, the stories of great heroes throughout history document the weaknesses and challenges that they had to overcome in life as well.

Not the Hero at Home

Unfortunately, my grandfather ended up paying a dear price for his service as an American Hero. While risking his life for his country, my grandfather suffered trauma himself. This began a painful legacy of deep wounds that his children would have to bear their entire lives. Upon returning to the States he started drinking heavily to escape the pain and horrors of war. He began to physically abuse his family. As a young father, he was unable to provide love to his family and a healthy environment for his children to grow up.

To the ones closest to him, who needed him most, my grandfather was no hero at all.

I didn’t learn about his full story of military service until I was 35 years old. My dad didn’t talk much about him growing up. Thankfully my father, while not perfect himself, was able to break the cycle of physical abuse that his father had left him with.

Only One True Hero

As much as I appreciate and value our American heroes (I attended a military college and have many good friends who served), our national heroes are still simply men and are susceptible to all the downfalls of this world. There has only been one hero in history who hasn’t been, and that is Jesus Christ.

Jesus lived a perfect life, and died a perfect man. He was consistent at home and in his work, he loved fully and worked heartily. He was creative, authoritative, and unchanging. Jesus Christ showed the world who He was by his works and His words. He is the only hero in history to defeat death and provide the opportunity of salvation for all mankind.

As a man in today’s culture, I don’t believe the lie that it is ok to be a hero at work, but not at home. If you conquer the world in business, but your spouse and kids don’t love you and respect your leadership, then all the success in the world won’t be worth the price you are paying to attain it. Are you striving to be a hero in the workplace and at home? Or are you only half the hero you should be?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *