Growing up my heroes were Neil Armstrong and the intrepid explorers braving the unknown to go where no man had gone before.  This past weekend we lost Neil and it caused me to reflect on the differences in heroes from then to now and how it has troubled me for some time.


Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin despite all challenges, always managed to emerge from the blackened Apollo capsule in the middle of the ocean surrounded by an entourage from a nearby aircraft carrier.  I watched each launch with wonder and amazement as Walter Cronkite would so clearly enunciate the magnitude of the unfolding events and enormous national pride we felt but couldn’t otherwise quite put into words.  Even when things went terribly wrong with a mission as they did occasionally and continued so in the 80s, we knew that the men and women in the space program embraced those risks willingly and knowingly. Just as heroes always do.


My heroes were men like larger than life John Wayne who stood on the black and white side of justice and never lost a fight except to Santa Anna and cancer. While his characters consistently fell well short of perfect, he embodied what it was to be a man and a Texan: strong, determined, fiercely independent, uncompromising in character, and to “never surrender or retreat”.


And then there was and is my Dad. Growing up, he was often away protecting this country which he loves so much.  When I was small, he seemed a giant of a man, in so many ways the real life incarnation of that John Wayne.  A true Texan, blazing his own trail – making his own rules and pushing them as far as the military would allow. I’ve learned almost all I know about leadership from the man and I hope to be half the leader and hero to my kids that he is to me.


Today, where are the heroes? My kids seem to more idolize DanIsNotOnFire and other sarcastically witty youtubers who have managed to turn their mindless ramblings into a pseudo career than any role models that exemplify the preceding qualities.  Personally, I feel that we could use a few more role models walking a bright line between right and wrong.  Life is not an everyone gets a medal for showing up affair. Life is full of tough challenges and real choices that test your integrity.  We need leaders and people who will stand for doing the right thing even at great personal cost. Those leaders of tomorrow must necessarily come from the generation of youtube, and it’s pretty concerning.  We need more Neil Armstrongs. We need more John Waynes. We need more men like my Dad.