Finding Heroes

Reading biographies is something I truly enjoy doing.  I buy into the fantasy and believe these words just came flowing out of the authors mouth perfectly onto the paper.  Ghost writers?  What are those?  I choose not look behind the curtain to see the main moving the levers and pushing the buttons.  Reading about another’s journey and what got them to where they are today is very inspiring to me.  I usually pick up something that lights my fire and keeps me going in a forward direction on my own journey.  Usually these people have reached a level of expertise, celebrity or notoriety that would allow a biography to be written.

Every once in a while I come across a story that isn’t like this.  The subjects aren’t famous.  They haven’t climbed to the top of their field.  They may not even have a field.  They are simple people trying everyday to reach beyond their present circumstances.  And their stories are every bit as compelling and inspiring, sometimes even more so, than those of the celebrated.  Such was the case with a documentary I recently watched, Waiting for Superman.  It’s been on my video cue for several months but I kept pushing frothier fare in front of it.  But I found myself on a long flight and it was in my bag.  And let me tell you, it was gripping.  Several times tears were just streaming from my eyes.  My heart was breaking for these kids.  If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a huge favor and put in on your must watch list immediately.  You’ll thank yourself.  The struggle of parents to get a better education for their kids was heartbreaking.  And when things didn’t turn out their way, they didn’t give up, they tried another route.  Nothing was going to stop them from getting a better life for their kids than they had.  And you know this is going on everyday, in every home, with single or dual parents, rich or poor, PHD’s or barely GED’s.  Parents realize a good education is the ticket to success for their children and they were going to move heaven and earth to make it happen.

That single mindedness, resolve and quiet determination really hit home with me.  It’s so easy to point to the celebrity or sport elite for inspiration but the real heroes are those that just keep plugging away, day after day in their anonymity, doing the best they can with what life throws their way.  They are real heroes.

This apple fell far from the tree

If you live outside of the Chicagoland area, I bet you don’t know where O’Hare Airport got it’s name from or why the ID letters are ORD.  ORD came from it’s original name Orchard Depot Field.  The O’Hare part came from a local boy, Butch O’Hare, who was first flying Ace of WWII and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroics.  While born in St. Louis, he didn’t grow up in here as his parents divorced and his Mom moved the family back to St. Louis.  His Dad lived here and became part of the city’s notorious past.  He was an attorney who started out running dog tracks and ended up working with the notorious Al Capone.  Capone and Chicago are forever linked.  When I studied in France during college, they’d never heard of the state of Indiana so I’d say it was near Chicago.  They’d inevitably reply with their Pepe LePew accent “oh Sheecahgo, bang bang” with thumb and forefinger extended.  Ah-the French.  But I digress.  Butch’s dad eventually turned against Capone, testifying and providing evidence to bring him down.  He was murdered by the Capone gang for his efforts.  But before that happened, Butch entered the Naval Academy and upon graduation, completed flight school as a Naval aviator.  There was speculation that Butch’s dad turned states evidence to get his son into the academy-he certainly wouldn’t be the first parent to want better for his son that he had.  Whatever the reason, Butch was awarded the first flying ace ever for the US Navy, until then a branch of the military not thought of in a flying way.  A Medal of Honor soon accompanied the Ace.  At the height of WWII, Butch was shot down by the Japanese leading the first nighttime mission ever off an aircraft carrier.  His plane and his body were never recovered and he was declared dead a year later.  Orchard Depot Field was renamed O’Hare International Airport in 1949 in honor of his courage and bravery.

I’m one of those geeky people that reads every plaque and sign I find along a path.  I love collecting random factoids about stuff.  What I took out of this besides a really cool part of our history, is that Butch didn’t let his parentage get in the way of becoming the best he could be.  He didn’t whine or moan that life wasn’t fair because he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth.  He made the best of what life dealt him and while his life was cut short, he excelled in the short time available to him.  He made the most of every minute available to him.  Makes you think doesn’t it?