To Our Heroes

Will Rogers, a Native American performer, actor, and humorous social commentator, once said, "We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others."

The reason we are gathered here on this solemn occasion is to remember a day 22 years ago when there were those who believed their rights superseded the rights of others.

Their lack of respect for the rights of others was so fanatical that it led to horrific acts, and we witnessed the loss of thousands of innocent lives as four airliners were hijacked and turned into weapons of terror. That day of unimaginable cruelty is forever etched into our memories.

Uncivilized behavior is a sad reality that has plagued humanity since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. The Bible calls this behavior evil, the seed of the serpent. Yet, for evil to exist, we must also acknowledge the presence of good, the seed of the woman. For there to be darkness, there must also be light. For there to be heaven, there must be hell. And if terrorists exist, then so do heroes. All of life reflects this duality.

Today, we gather to honor those who valiantly chose to charge into cockpits, dialed their loved ones from the air, offering and leaving messages of comfort and love, fearlessly led others down smoke-filled stairwells, and bravely entered collapsing and burning buildings. Those who placed the right to life for others ahead of their own in order to save them, in direct opposition to the terrorists who sought only to bring death and destruction.

Today, we have gathered here to raise the flag of our great nation in honor of our countless heroes from various sectors of public service. These heroes willingly relinquish their own rights in defense of and to safeguard the rights of others. They don't just recognize the rights of others, as Will Rogers eloquently stated, they are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for them.

In the realm of leadership literature, there exists a term that encapsulates this exceptional collective unity, known as OCB, or Organizational Citizenship Behaviors. This concept denotes any voluntary action that surpasses the expectations outlined in an individual's formal job description. It includes altruistic deeds, offering assistance to colleagues, shouldering additional responsibilities, and displaying unwavering organizational loyalty. It’s the glue that binds truly great entities together for a shared purpose.

However, heroes take these OCBs to an entirely different level; their expected behaviors are written in their job descriptions but also verbalized in an OATH, code, or pledge that they wholeheartedly commit to and abide by.

Here are the professions and their respective oaths that we honor today:

Military: The Oath of Enlistment: "I ________ do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

Police: The Law Enforcement Oath of Honor: "On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character, or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the Constitution, my community, and the agency I serve."

EMS: The Code of Professional Ethics "To conserve life, alleviate suffering, promote health, do no harm, and encourage the quality and equal availability of emergency medical care."

Firefighter's Oath: "I will never allow my personal feelings, nor danger to self, deter me from my responsibilities as a firefighter. I will at all times, respect the property and rights of all men and women, the laws of my country, and members I serve with."

Rotarians: Rotary Four-Way Test "Of the things we think, say, or do:

1.     Is it the truth?

2.     Is it fair to all concerned?

3.     Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

4.     Will it be beneficial to all concerned?"


The fabric of humanity depends on us being there for one another, of being other-centered. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But what makes a hero’s job description different is that it contains a solemn commitment that often entails a significant sense of duty including making the ultimate sacrifice for another human being. They don’t just sign an offer letter, but as you just heard, they take an oath comprised of two main components:

1.     Solemn Attestation: This involves affirming the truth of one's words or the sincerity of one's intentions in a formal and serious manner. This attestation is often made with a sense of gravity and may include calling upon a deity as a witness, as exemplified by the phrase "So help me God." This part of the commitment underscores the individual's earnestness and integrity in fulfilling their pledge.

2.     Promise to Perform Duties Faithfully: Beyond a mere verbal commitment, it also entails a promise to fulfill official or prescribed duties faithfully. This signifies a sense of responsibility and dedication to carry out one's obligations to the best of their abilities, regardless of the challenges or sacrifices involved.

Preparing for such other-centric citizenship commitments involves comprehensive readiness on various fronts, including physical, mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual. This thorough preparation ensures that individuals are equipped to honor their commitments when called upon, and it reflects the gravity and significance of the duties they are pledging to fulfill.

In his book Life is Tremendous, my father, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones,  maintained there were only three decisions you’ll ever make in life. One of these decisions is: Who are you going to live your life for? The heroes we honor today chose to live their lives in the service of and for others.

In direct opposition are those who choose to cast aside focusing on others for the sake of their own wants, needs, comforts, and ideologies. I call these people SOBs, which stands for self-oriented behaviors. Life for them is self before service, my way or the highway, and to hell with the rights, convictions, property, and even lives of others. Again, we see the duality of life, and each person must choose which side they are on.

One of my heroes from the New Testament, the apostle Paul, writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19, 'You are not your own.' What a beautiful call to duty for the service, protection, and respect of our fellow human beings.

While we are no doubt inherently selfish creatures, this verse reminds us to cast that version of ourselves aside. It changes our focus from haughty to humble, from nefarious to noble, from criminal to caring, from terroristic to tremendous, and from selfish to selfless.

Before I close, I want to share a poem I only recently discovered last month and many of you may have heard it before. I can’t believe it took me this long to find it, and I hope it impacts you as much as it did me. It’s called 'The Indispensable Man' by Saxon White Kessinger.

Sometime when you’re feeling important;

Sometimes when your ego’s in bloom

Sometime when you take it for granted

You’re the best qualified in the room,

Sometimes when you feel that your going

Would leave an unfillable hole,

Just follow these simple instructions

And see how they humble your soul;

Take a bucket and fill it with water,

Put your hand in it up to the wrist,

Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining

Is a measure of how you’ll be missed.

You can splash all you wish when you enter,

You may stir up the water galore,

But stop and you’ll find that in no time

It looks quite the same as before.

The moral of this quaint example

Is to do just the best that you can,

Be proud of yourself but remember,

There’s no indispensable man

Except heroes. Our heroes, the ones we honor here today, are indispensable. What they’ve done for us, we will never forget. And while this poem is a poignant reminder of the transient nature of life, the fickleness of humankind, and the importance of keeping our ego in check, every hero would tell you that they are NOT indispensable, that they were only doing what they had sworn to do, what they felt compelled to do, and would do for any of their fellow human beings; that they just happened to be the one to get the call to duty, and it could have been anyone.

But we know better. And we thank God for the other-centric heroes who made a decision, made it theirs, and committed to die by it. They may be gone, but they’re sacrifices will never be forgotten in the water bucket of life.

Today, we honor the heroes, the men and women who choose to live their lives committed to something other than themselves. May we live with the awareness and conviction of those who continue to serve all around us today. May we find ways to serve, respect, and defend the rights of our fellow countrymen and women for all our days to come.

May God bless you all, may he continue to protect our heroes, and may God bless America.

9/11HeroesSacrificeService before self

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