Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The origin of “All Glory is Fleeting”

Since ancient times, all heroes were warned “all glory is fleeting” and with the rare exception of Tales of brave Ulysses, acts of great valor are quickly forgotten.

Tales of Brave Ulysses

In Roman times, a conquering general was allowed a “triumph”, a parade though the streets of Rome, but Caesar commanded that a slave was required to stand next to the general in his chariot continuously whispering into his ear “All glory is fleeting”.

From the movie Patton (one of the best movies ever made) we see Old Blood and Guts, General Patton describing this ancient wisdom:

"For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. . .

A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting." - Attributed to George Patton

Beware: All Glory is Fleeting

BTW, George Patton was fond of saying “all glory is fleeting”, but there is no evidence that the words from the movie were an exact quote!

The most likely origin of the saying “all glory is fleeting” is from a loose translation of the Latin “Sic transit gloria mundi”, literally "Thus passes the glory of the world".

But regardless of the origin, it’s true, all glory is indeed fleeting, and it’s a special treat when an ancient glory is revisited.

The hero du jour

Back in 1968, Andy Warhol predicted that everyone would get 15 minutes of fame, but in the real world, a moment of glory is dictated by the news cycle of the time.

But sometimes glory is not always gone forever!

Last week I was reading the latest book from the Pulitzer Prize winning author Neil Sheehan’s 2009 book “A Fiery Peace in a Cold War”, (a masterpiece) and I was surprised to read the story of my own fathers fleeting glory, a combat raid of September 23, 1942, on pages 36-40.

All the men of this mission are long dead, but I know that they would have been tickled to see their moment of glory revisited, however briefly . . .

While Sheehan is writing about 4 star general Ben Schriever (an amazing golfer and all-around nice guy), but the real hero of the tale of glory was John "Jack" Dougherty, a pilot with brass balls:

John Dougherty exemplified heroism

Everybody on this B-17 was a hero, but Doughtery's gallantry was exceptional by any standard. Over the years he won the Silver Star three times, the Air Medal four times, the Distinguished Flying Cross five times, and Purple Heart twice!

Back in WWII, fame from glory was a weekly event, and each week brought a new set of heroes. Back in the 1940’s, everybody went to the movies each week for their news, and the weekly newsreels featured the hero du jour.

You sunk my battleship!

Most people are never lucky enough to be celebrated as heroes, but for one week in late 1942, my father was celebrated as a national hero for helping dive bomb a B-17 directly into heavy enemy fire, sinking a large Japanese ship.

My Dad, Louis F. Burleson, hero of the week!

To me, the real glory was not the attack itself but how they used a weapon in a way that it was not designed to work, a lesson that has served me well in my own career.

For one shining moment, the crew’s pictures were in newspapers all over the world and both the pilots and co-pilot eventually became Air Force generals. My Dad received his first Distinguished Flying Cross for helping in this “wild night”, and it was great to read about this, 68 years after it happened . . .

Real heroes are innovators, finding new ways to kill the enemy

But all glory is fleeting, and the next week their glory was all over. American had no shortage of brave men, and each new week brought a new set of heroes.

So, why don't we hear about today's weekly heroes?

America needs to acknowledge our heroes, however briefly, they have earned our admiration and respect.

Only fifteen minutes of fame for today’s heroes?

While Sheehan recounts glory from 70 years ago, how come nobody hears about the glory of today’s soldiers? It’s sad that today’s American hero’s like John Wayne Walding don’t get the press that they deserve for their heroism.

This kid is my hero, a man who makes me proud to be an American:

An American Hero you have never heard of: John Wayne Walding

Now I ask you, why don't todays heroes get their moment of glory?

Walding should get the Medal of Honor for some serious heroism, or at the very least, a multi-million dollar movie deal.

After Walding‘s leg was shot near the knee by a sniper, he cut his own leg off, strapped it to his thigh and continued fighting the enemy!

Now I ask you, why isn’t this front-page news?

While it’s true that all glory is fleeting, we need to get the hippie liberals who run the media to start giving our American heroes their day in the sun.

Let’s start giving our boys in blue the credit that they deserve.