Travis and Skywalker

I know what you may be thinking having read the title and now wondering just what in the world this post is about. Well the post is about heroes, all the many characteristics that makes someone a hero and one very important thing that is not required, perfection. We, as a society, place our heroes on rather high pedestal expecting to hear/read that they always made the right choices or led a completely admirable life. But the truth is, that’s not true.

William Barret Travis and Anakin Skywalker don’t have much a common, obviously one is a historical figure and the other a fictional character. Travis fought with wits and rifle, Anakin with the force and a lightsaber. But they were both heroes and, they were both flawed. They both led lives that made many people believe that they are not what heroes are made of. Travis was a man who well…would have had quite a few notches carved on his dashboard. He abandoned his wife in Alabama, he was hot headed and to quote Jason Patric’s Jim Bowie from the 2004 Alamo movie, a “two-bit dandy”. Yet he still had with in him the makings of a hero, a guy whose sacrifice inspired an entire army and who now has lakes, counties, schools, and streets named in his honor. H.W. Brand writes in his book Lone Star Nation about when Travis changed, “As the burden of command fell on Travis, he grew into his authority in a way that must have surprised those who had known him chiefly as a bellicose young buck. He had been glib; now he became eloquent. He had been headstrong; now he was heroic.” It is difficult to image what it must have been like for Travis to shoulder all this responsibility, after all he was only 26 years old when he died.

Anakin also had a lot put on his shoulders at a young age, he was 23 maybe 24 when he became Darth Vader. Anakin also led a life that wasn’t always heroic, he was prideful and struggled with patience, anger, and doubt. Also like Travis not many would have guessed that Anakin would have risen to the challenge at his own moment of truth. Both Travis and Anakin died shortly after their moment of heroism, Travis about a week later and Anakin, only lived for a few minutes. It is important to remember that heroes are people, just like everyone else, and they make mistakes, just like everyone else. Heroes have the courage to make the right decisions at the right time, and that is what matters most. I am not saying that we should “sugar coat” the life of a hero because that does both them and us a disservice, but rather accept the whole person.

There is a song by the band Third Day called “Born Again” and the very beginning of the song I think describes what the moment of heroism maybe felt like to these men. “Well today I found myself after searching all these years, and the man that I saw, he wasn’t at all who I thought he’d be.” Travis came to Texas to find work as a lawyer and run away from his debts. Anakin turned to the dark side of force in search of power and recognition. Yet both men grew and changed a short period of time and found their identity.

A Bible verse that is hugely popular when speaking of heroes is John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Now this is something that both Anakin and Travis did. Anakin for Luke (and the galaxy) and Travis for all Texans, who were living at the time and those yet to come.

To all heroes past, present and future, thank you.