Not Just a Sandwich



There is, of course, a popular “whole-meal-in-the-hand” thing that some people in New York call a Hero Sandwich, probably because anybody who could eat a whole one when they were first invented was some kind of a hero.

Sometimes, that almost too big to bite thing is also called a Sub Sandwich (in New Yawk City and elsewhere NY-ish) or, depending on where else you live, a Grinder (in New England, if it’s served hot), a Hoagie (in Philadelphia) or even a Wedge (in parts of Connecticut)… and don’t forget the Hoboken Blimpie and the Louisiana Po’boy. There are even Planet Sub and Subway restaurants devoted to that icon of stuff-your-face dining.

But even if everybody loves that bready, crusty, submarine shaped, cold-cut or meatball stuffed thing called a Hero… I’m pretty sure nobody wants to be that kind. Wait for the pun – that would be too crumb-ie.

So, what is a Hero? A real one, that is. It’s Veterans Day in Jamestown – and everywhere else across the country – on Friday. That nudged me to wonder if we always use the word hero for its real meaning.

I squeezed and grunted my way to prying of the top of a stubborn pickle jar the other day, for example, and my wife said, though only half seriously, “My hero!” Lovely thought, but not quite.

General Norman “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf, Commander-in-chief of the United States Central Command, once said, “It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.” That’s reason number one to take time on Friday to celebrate and commemorate Veterans Day.

The second thing to know about heroes is that they are ordinary… ordinary, normal, everyday men and women, not super-powered people nobody else can aspire to be like. That’s just an excuse for the rest of us to back away from hard things. We like to think it takes somebody “special” to be our hero.

editorial2A hero simply doesn’t quit when something needs to be done. A hero is “…an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles,” according to Christopher Reeve whose famous path took him from Superman to wheel chair in a single instant.

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man. He is simply brave five minutes longer,” according to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

But hero is not a job description or something a child dreams of growing up to be, like a fireman or a surgeon or an astronaut. A hero is what happens when the unknown presents itself as a challenge too big to tackle… and you keep on going anyway.

That’s what Veterans Day is all about. Soldiers enlist as ordinary people with the sure knowledge that, no matter the mode of service, there’s a chance – no matter how slim or sure – that a bullet or a bomb or a blood crazed mob might be the next thing to face. Heroes encounter the unknown… and they keep on going.

Yet heroes aren’t only soldiers. Veterans Day can inspire parents to be heroes when their children are in danger, teachers who are faced with the apparently unteachable who still need a bright future, ordinary people like farmers, firemen and ICU nurses when the unknowable and impossible cross their paths.

On Friday, November 7, find a veteran and be encouraged that you, like they, just might be made of the right stuff. And if you are a vet yourself, thank you for showing the rest of us what a hero can be.

Enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut
The Jamestown Gazette

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.