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  September 29, 2001



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Heroes galore

Special men and women come from all walks of life



By BRET HART -- SLAM! Wrestling
 I'd imagine politicians and psychiatrists would normally make strange bed fellows, yet both groups are urging everyone to start getting back to normal in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on the civilized world. It's a thought that's at the same time sobering and motivating to realize that our actions and reactions today will redefine the very essence of what becomes normal tomorrow.

 For those of us who are having trouble moving forward, I am reminded of the American soldiers of the 7th Calvary Regiment, `Garry Owen' Tank Division, in Kuwait and a coin they gave to me. The inscription boldly says `Always Forward.' It leaves no room for interpretation or hesitation.

 Just ... always forward!

 You might ask, where are we to find the fortitude and summon the courage to go always forward? The answer is found in the coin's other inscription, `Defenders of Peace.' A noble charge.

 The army chaplain I met in Kuwait told me, "You have no idea what it means to these young men that you're here."

 He went on to explain how, as lookouts stationed at remote outposts for long shifts, these soldiers couldn't relax for even a moment for fear the enemy would appear literally out of the blue. Iraq was a stone's throw away.

 With their thoughts focused on incoming fire, I can only imagine Owen and I must have looked like a mirage to them as we appeared out of the desert haze.

 "You're heroes to them," the chaplain told us, as he went on to explain what a welcome diversion wrestling was in these circumstances.

 At first, Owen and I couldn't even comprehend how a couple of wrestlers could be heroes to these real-life warriors. But as they shook our hands, making comments about their favourite battles in the ring, for that moment their minds, thirsty for home, recalled sitting around the TV with buddies and girlfriends, Mom, Dad, the kids and Aunt Mary, cheering for the good guys.

 Without even realizing it at the time, a couple of wrestlers from back home gave these soldiers an intangible gift to help sustain them -- a chance to feel normal again. A feeling that embodies the very thing they were there to defend.

 The soldiers in Kuwait came to mind the other day when I read a column knocking the idea anyone should care if Michael Jordan returns to basketball. The drift was with all the important stuff we have to deal with right now, why would anyone even bother to waste the ink on Michael Jordan. The writer goes on to say sports figures aren't heroes, the real heroes are the firefighters who are dredging through the rubble.

 I think the author's problem is the heroism of all the rescue workers in New York is so far above and beyond the call of duty, the scale is skewed to where calling anyone else a hero seems, to him, to trivialize the very essence of the word.

  The way I see it, the world needs as many heroes as it can get.

 I would be willing to bet that all of those brave men and women who search through the wreckage in Manhattan have heroes of their own. How many afternoons have they spent at Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Garden cheering for the good guys? How many of them hung a poster of a sports hero in their bedroom when they were kids, looked up to it and found the inspiration to believe `I can be anything I want to be. I can do anything I set my mind to do. And if I am now called upon to move a mountain of tangled steel with my bare hands and buckets, I can -- and I will.'

 And when they all finally go home from hell on earth and summon the strength and resolve to go always forward, to be normal, I suspect more than a few of the greatest heroes of our time will kick their feet up and watch the game -- any game.

 It's part of who we are, of what we defend.

 Heroes need heroes, too.

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