HomeOpinionOPINION: Heroes along the way

OPINION: Heroes along the way

by Todd E. Brady

Columnist

Friday, my oldest son finished his summer internship in Washington DC, so my mother and I made the trek up and back to pick him up.  It’s been fun this summer talking to him at night and hearing about the exciting events of his day in the Beltway.  It will be even better during these few weeks before school begins to talk with him and to watch baseball on TV each evening together.

Mom and I took our time travelling to DC.  After spending the night in Roanoke, we started out the next day driving the Blue Ridge Parkway.  If you’ve never done that, put it on your bucket list.  Spanning from the Great Smokey Mountains up to the Shenandoah Valley, the 45-mph drive is more than worth it.  The beautiful drive was a reminder to me that a trip is not always about the destination but the journey.

The winding roads offered a much-needed respite from the stressful, busy, fast-paced interstate.  There were scenes overlooking mountains where you could see for miles and miles.  You know you’re riding high when you’re in your car and you look DOWN on the clouds!  Every three minutes or so, we would encounter another car.

We stopped, got out, and hiked a short distance to the Falling Water Cascades.  Along the way, we saw hawks, a groundhog, wild turkeys, and a deer.  They all seemed to be saying, “What are you humans doing on our turf?”

At one point, we stopped at the Points of Otter Lodge.  As we walked around, I talked to a man cutting grass on a riding mower.  He looked like any other worker, but as I talked to him, I realized he was indeed a hero.  A retired military officer who once worked in the Pentagon, he shared with me that he moved his wife and six kids down to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a quieter life.  I told him we were on our way to pick up my son, thanked him for his service to our country, and then went on our way.  When we pulled out, I looked at him in the rear-view mirror and thought, “There’s a hero sitting on that John Deere zero turn.”

That evening, we made it to DC and had pizza with my son and the family he lived with.  The next day, he finished his last day in the office, and we went to the National Portrait Gallery.  Motivated by seeing great portraits and spending the afternoon in the air-conditioning, I enjoyed a collection of modern photographs focusing on relationships within families.  There were pictures of children, moms, dads, and grandparents.  Those photographs were a reminder to me that adults who serve their families are some of our country’s greatest heroes.

In the other wing of the first floor, I saw portraits of individuals throughout the history of America.  I first saw the portrait of Benjamin Franklin.  Then, on to those of the likes of Cotton Mather, Dale Carnegie, Noah Webster, Washington Irving. As a Tennessean, I was especially glad to see Davy Crockett’s and Daniel Boone’s portraits.  It was profoundly special to see the portraits of Booker T. Washington and Sojourner Truth.  The paintings in the National Portrait Gallery were of men and women—those who are America’s heroes.

Presidential portraits were on the second floor.  Each one was great.  From Washington and Jackson and Lincoln to Roosevelt and Eisenhower and Reagan, I was reminded that we mark our history by the people who have shaped that history.  Yes, some might say that people simply come and go, but we would not be where we are if it were not for certain people.  As I walked among those Presidential portraits, I realized that each one, at a particular time and in a particular way is a hero.

I’m glad my son spent time with modern heroes this summer.  He met some heroes and sent me pictures of them. 

The drive home was long, but it sure was good to come back to Jackson.  Some of the greatest heroes I know live right here.  I see them every day.

Todd E. Brady serves as Staff Chaplain and Advanced Funeral Planner at Arrington Funeral Directors.  He and his wife, Amy have five sons.  You may write to him at tbrady@afgemail.net.

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