I have worn an Army uniform for the past eight years and deployed twice to Afghanistan. This doesn't make me a hero.
Many veterans deserve high praise for their heroism, but others of us do not. Infantrymen who put their lives on the line for a mission, aircrews who flew into harm's way to evacuate the wounded, servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice — these are some of the heroes I've been privileged to know. Applying the label "hero" to those of us who haven't earned it diminishes the service and sacrifice of those who did. It also gets in the way of constructive debate and policymaking.
Over the past decade, a growing chasm between military and civil society has raised the pedestal upon which the United States places those who serve in its military. Too much hero-labeling reinforces a false dichotomy that's commonly heard in our political discourse: You're either for the troops or you're against them.