Byron's Babbles

Our Origins, Legends, & Heroes

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Global Education, Global Leadership, Inspirational, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 17, 2015


2015 Kentucky Colonel Honor Flight

“Not to know what happened before we were born is to remain perpetually a child. For what is the worth of a human life unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history.” ~ Cicero

People living in democratic republics should know not only of its origins but also of the imperfect democratic struggle it spawned. Such appreciation might alleviate the taking of one’s way of life for granted. Americans understand the embodiment of heroic virtue in everyday life, for legends runs deep in American history.

Yesterday I had the privilege of serving our Veterans as a Guardian for our Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels Honor Flight to Washington DC. This was a very emotional experience and I still, 24 hours later, hardly have the words to describe or reflect on the day. As a Kentucky Colonel, this was something I really wanted to do, but did not know what to expect. Well, let me tell you, it exceeded my expectations. This opportunity to serve provided the best lessons in selflessness and servant leadership one could receive anywhere. The Veterans taking part in the Honor Flight, all of whom were Kentucky Colonels, were transformers in life; they thought not of themselves but of a higher cause – America and global freedom.

“Kentucky Colonels are unwavering in devotion to faith, family, fellowman and country. Passionate about being compassionate. Proud, yet humble. Leaders who are not ashamed to follow. Gentle but strong in will and commitment. The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, as a Brotherhood, reaches out to care for our children, support those in need and preserve our rich heritage.”  ~ The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels Credo


Water Cannon Salute

Everywhere we went the Veterans were met with mobs of crowds cheering and thanking them for their service. There was even a “Water Cannon” salute at Reagan International Airport for our plane as we landed in Washington D.C. As I watched in amazement, these heroes practiced our Kentucky Colonels Credo of being, “Proud, yet humble.” These Veterans were truly touched by the outpouring of support and cries of, “Thank you for your service!” For me it was the first time of truly being in a role of 100% servant leader. Because I am not a Veteran, I did not matter to anyone yesterday, and should not have. This was incredibly satisfying and humbling. The entire day was about serving the Veterans as a group and the Veteran I was responsible for as a Guardian, Jerry McCandless (more about him later). I have always prided myself in walking the talk as a servant leader, but this provided the opportunity to be 100% servant. I have to tell you, I am a changed man. 


Jerry McCandless With Former US Senator Bob Dole

Amazingly, after returning to the bus someone asked me if I had my picture taken with former U.S. Senator Bob Dole. He comes out and personally greets Veterans from the Honor Flights at the World War II Memorial. Honestly, I had not even thought of getting a picture of me with him. In fact, I don’t even care to have a picture of me with him. I am, however, very proud of the picture I took of Jerry with Bob Dole. Remember, as a servant, I was to have no wants or needs on this trip – and I’m still amazed I had none, except for our Veterans to have the greatest day of their lives. As I said before, this experience really changes you and gives you the chance to fully understand what it means to be a servant leader.

These Honor Flight participants are heroes and legends. Legends serve two purposes: they provide a shared cultural experience for a people, and they symbolize the aims and ideals of that people’s common history, religion, culture, or institutional authority. As a legend, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus is a great example. Having stirred the passions of Republican Rome, later citizens of the Roman Empire and eighteenth century America, and men and women of contemporary times, he has been revered throughout history. His life is one of legendary accomplishment and character. Not merely legendary, Cincinnatus is also heroic. While fellow ancient warrior Alexander the Great or fellow Roman leader Julius Caesar are legendary, they do not impart the timeless moral lessons of a hero.

The hero sacrifices himself for something—that’s the morality of it. He gives his life to something larger than himself. In further contrast, the hero symbolizes our ability to control the irrational savage within us, whereas the leader may exploit the savage to gain his ends. One of the many distinctions between the celebrity and the hero…is that one lives only for self while the other acts to redeem society.” ~ Joseph Campbell

George Washington, one of our American heroes, like Cincinnatus, was a man of great accomplishment, but character, not achievement or genius, is also his most honored legacy. Character sets them apart from others. Children in schools all over Italy still recite the Cincinnatus story in the same way children of the United States learn of George Washington and the “cherry tree.” Another great American hero, Patrick Henry asked repeatedly of the role of the citizen in a Republic. He sought much more than a far removed vote in regularly scheduled elections.

Having met the living legend, a British soldier penned the following observations of Washington’s quest to live as Cincinnatus:   

“Altogether he made a most noble, respectable appearance, and I really think him the first man in the world. After having had the management and care of the whole Continental army, he has now retired without receiving any pay for his trouble. he knows how to prefer solid happiness in his retirement. I admire him as superior to even the Roman heroes themselves. I am told during the war he was never seen to smile. he had only the good of his country at heart. his greatest pride now is, to be thought the first farmer in America. He is quite a Cincinnatus, and often works with his men himself—— strips off his coat and labors like a common man .” 


Jerry McCandless At The Korean War Memorial

This was exactly the kind of person I found in the Veterans we served for our Honor Flight. I promised I would tell you about Jerry McCandless. Jerry and I both, as Christians, believe God hand picked us to be together on this flight – God does do that you know! Jerry is a Korean War Veteran and lives on a farm. That agrarian connection got us started on the right foot. I learned so much from Jerry during our whirlwind tour of Washington D.C. I particularly loved watching him interact with young people. He brought history and a sense of patriotism alive and real for all those around him. Jerry truly is a hero who embodies the selflessness and character of George Washington and Cincinnatus. I also still get chills thinking of him telling the story of how, while on active duty in the Marine Corps, he donated $2.00 to the Marine Corps War (Iwo Jima) Memorial. He is very proud to have played a part in our country having that memorial and I believe he should be. There really are heroes who live up to the legends of countries founding heroes and we had the opportunity and honor to serve them yesterday. I would encourage you to seek out opportunities to serve our nation’s heroes!


Hilliard, M.J. (2001). Cincinnatus and the citizen-servant ideal. Xlibris Corporation. 


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