Heroes and Role Models
By: Garland Davis
Between some old movies seen on the TV and at the theater, I commanded a PT Boat with John Wayne, bombed Tokyo with Van Johnson and Spencer Tracy, drove a bulldozer with John Wayne and the SeaBees, stormed the beaches at Guadalcanal with numerous other movie actors. These movie actors and later television actors portrayed positive role models for boys and young men. Actresses like Judy Garland, Doris Day, and Katherine Hepburn set the example for young girls and women.
These actors and actresses weren’t angels, but their private lives weren’t open to the 24/7 scrutiny that plagues today’s celebrities.
Sports stars presented themselves as clean shaven, properly barbered, and well dressed men. The worst one would see watching a baseball game was the constant spitting and an occasional argument with an umpire.
As boys growing up in the late forties, the fifties and into the sixties, we were surrounded by heroes and role models. Every family and every neighborhood had someone who had served in WWII. We only knew it because someone told us. These men didn’t talk about it or brag about their exploits during their war.
I remember a number of these men. There was Mister Jim. Jim lived with his three younger sisters and his nephew. He farmed tobacco. Jim was up in the morning to milk the cows and feed the animals and was still working when the sun set. He owned no tractors, trucks or other modern farm machinery. He plowed his land with a team of mules, hauled what he needed in a wagon or in a sled. He walked the mile to and from church on Sunday mornings, regardless of the weather, while his nephew and sisters rode. His younger sister told me that Jim spent a year in the trenches in France during WWI. When I once asked him about it his only reply was, “You don’t need to know that stuff boy, now let’s git this ‘baccer laid down.”
I was in the Boy Scouts for awhile when I was twelve and was struggling to learn Morse Code. A friend’s dad helped me with it. He told me he learned it in the Army. He also taught me the chords on a guitar, but I was tone deaf and couldn’t tell one from the other. I learned at his funeral that he had been a radio operator in B-17 bombers and had flown eighteen missions over Germany during WWII.
I had a cousin whom we all looked up to as a hero. He had flown the P-38 Lightning during the invasion of Italy and later escorting the bombers into Europe. He started a crop dusting company after the war. He was recalled for the Korean conflict and was killed during a training flight in Texas.
Another cousin came home from Korea a mental basket case. He was a corpsman and was caught behind Chinese lines with seven wounded soldiers. When American forces regained the ground they found him with his patients and the four Chinese soldiers he killed protecting them. The Army hung a bunch of medals on him and sent him home. He was in and out of mental facilities until he took his own life while I was in boot camp.
The gentleman who cut my hair walked with a limp. He was with the Marines and had invaded Guadalcanal with an artillery unit. They were setting up the artillery and an accident crushed his foot. When I asked him about it all he ever said was, “It was hot and miserable.”
A very gentle and religious gentleman taught sixth grade at my school. He had been an artillery officer manning a gun position on the Outer Banks of North Carolina during the war. He said they spent their time looking for Nazi Submarines trying to land saboteurs on the beach.
A cousin was married to a sailor who was a BT. He had served during the war in a DE escorting convoys to and from Europe. After the war he stayed in the Navy Reserve. I was in North Carolina after I made CPO and attended BTC Raymond Mallory’s retirement from the Reserves.
We were surrounded by positive role models and we idolized our movie heroes and walked in awe of the ordinary men we knew who were heroes.
What role models do boys have today? Charlie Sheen, Snoop Dogg, Colin Kaepernick, Bill Clinton?
Who do the girls have Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus? And Monica taught them that giving blow jobs was okay.