But I digress: Don't confuse heroes and celebrities

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By John Pawlak

Independence Day came and went this year with the usual fanfare of fireworks, political speeches, flag waving, and of course backyard barbecues.

As always, it was a time for families to get together and enjoy the comfort and safety that we all have come to expect in our lives.

Some 7,000 miles away, U.S. soldiers (130,000 strong) continue to fight and die in a foreign land that has become little more than a line item on the weekend news shows.

The phrase “War on Terror” rolls off the tongue with the same ease and with as little feeling as “Pass the mustard, please.”

During Independence week, how much time was spent discussing who had died over there, who had gotten their legs blown off, who had reenlisted because they felt a responsibility to the others in their troop?

Not much (if any). Instead, the radio and television news teams were consumed with updates on Michael Jackson’s death, Michael Jackson’s autopsy, Michael Jackson’s funeral, Michael Jackson’s will, Michael Jackson’s favorite soft drink, Michael Jackson’s hat size.

On July 6, just two days after the festivities, seven American warriors died in Afghanistan, bringing the total U.S. deaths in Bush’s War on Terror to 5020.

Between in-depth interviews with Billy Mays’ doctor and Farah Fawcett’s hairdresser, the media did manage to spend a few minutes reporting the seven deaths.

However, we know more about Michael Jackson’s bodyguard than we do about these soldiers.

For the record, their names are Mark Garner of State Road, N.C.; Nicolas H.J. Gideon of Murrieta, Calif.; Isaac L. Johnson of Columbus, Ga.; Brock H. Chavers of Bulloch, Ga.; Tony Michael Randolph of Henryetta, Okla.; Chester W. Hosford of Hastings, Minn.; and Derwin I. Williams of Glenwood, Ill.

With all the debates about honoring the flag, saying the Pledge of Allegiance, supporting the troops - the concern over national pride seems to dwindle when a celebrity breaks a leg.

My friends know that I absolutely hate war and believe in my heart that it never accomplishes anything but death, destruction and lasting hate.

But you don’t have to be a hawk to recognize and appreciate the horrible risks taken by our military. We sing songs in praise of them and so technically, they’re not unsung heroes.

But a song and two dollars will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Those songs were sung on Independence Day even as homeless veterans were rotting on the streets. (One third of all homeless people in America are veterans!)

Heroes are made, not born. Wearing white hats and riding into sunsets has little to do with the reality of what makes a hero.

And yet, who is idolized?

Our nation is infatuated with the “best of America” ... a golf pro worth over a billion dollars, NFL football players averaging over $1 million per year (just in salaries), movie stars getting over $10 million for a single movie, the voices of the Simpsons collectively reaping $400,000 per episode ... and of course the hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses paid out to executives of a single corporation.

Best of America? I don’t think so.

Real heroes walk the streets every day, usually unnoticed and unappreciated.

Our police force protects us and keeps us safe at home. Our firefighters risk their lives to save our property.

The National Guard, Coast Guard, teachers, school bus drivers, hospital aides, paramedics, social workers, community volunteers ... and countless others who work tirelessly to make this country better for everyone.

Songs are fine and bumper stickers do make a statement, but why don’t we hear more about the sacrifices made each day by Americans abroad and those who care for our children and us domestically? It really isn’t news, is it?

Michael Jackson’s glove selling on eBay would make more news than the death of a true hero.

Here some news that never made national prime time: Police Officer Henry Canales Houston, Tex. - killed on June 23, 2009 by gunfire while conducting an undercover investigation.

Assistant Chief Joey Cannon (Plumerville, Ark. - killed on June 19, 2009 while approaching a stolen vehicle. Firefighter Ryan Wingard (Strattanville, Pa.) - died on July 6, 2009 while fighting a fire at a demolished house. Firefighter Lyle Lewis (Osborne, Kan.) - died on June 16, 2009 while fighting a fire in a farmhouse. Paramedic Dale Long (Bennington, Vt.) - died on June 15, 2009 in a traffic accident while transporting a patient.

School crossing guard Bennie Eanes (Eden, N.C.) - killed by a vehicle while directing traffic in front of an elementary school.

A song and two dollars? Given the option, my bet is that most heroes today would opt for the two bucks.