Ten steps. That is what a twenty-seven year old soldier, Captain Humayun Khan, took–ten steps away from his men and toward a vehicle packed with improvised explosive devices (IED’s). Telling his men to STAY BACK, he approached the vehicle at the gate to a military compound insuring that his moving forward would incite the enemies in the vehicle. They instantly detonated the bombs–his ten steps moved the explosion away from 100 soldiers on one side of the gate and more than 200 people milling the open street on the other side of the gate.
Humayun Khan died. He was awarded posthumously the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He was buried, like all military heroes, in Arlington National Cemetery.
I learned about this hero from his father, who also shared this: Humayun Khan came to the United States when he was two-years-old. His father said: This country made him what he was.
Those words have stayed with me. Our country, this country, the schools Captain Khan attended, the boys and girls he played with, the neighborhood he lived in, the books about Thomas Jefferson that he read, the ROTC that he joined at the University of Virginia where he earned his college degree–all of this, his father said, MADE HIM WHAT HE WAS. Made him a hero, a man dedicated to his team, a man that made sure that he protected those under his watch. A man who sacrificed for his country.
Captain Khan’s father also used the word STEWARDSHIP. Reader, If you don’t mind, here’s the definition: an ethic that embodies being responsible and protecting something. Khan protected his men and worked to serve his country.
I am proud of my husband’s and my three children, proud of the lives they lead. Proud of the people they have chosen to love and the grandchildren they have produced. And now I have a whole new way of thinking about why they are responsible people who: serve and love their families and friends, work hard to support their lives, continue to educate themselves about life–all aspects of it, protect the environment, help those who need help on many different levels, and have faith and appreciate life’s gifts–nature, art, music, literature.
It’s not simply about what their parents gave them. It’s because they have thrived in an atmosphere of freedom and peace which America has given them. And I know they want that for everyone on our planet.
Captain Khan’s statement that his son is a hero because living here MADE HIM WHAT HE WAS–should be words each of us ponder and hold close. No matter who we are–in all our diverse and amazing ways–we need to now and again TAKE TEN STEPS FORWARD and help someone, compliment someone, weep with someone, and praise someone. And I’ll repeat again what a wise woman once told me–feeling down, confused, angry? Go out and help someone else. It will make your day and beyond.