Just yesterday I saw the movie Act of Valor.  It’s my belief that as a society we have become so innundated with war movies and action-thriller films like the Mission Impossible series that real sacrifice is treated superficially and no longer affects us the way it did other generations.

Act of Valor, however, turns that notion on its head, and made me fully aware just how much is at stake for our troops at home and abroad.  In creative writing courses I have been taught that a good story should seem both inevitable, yet retain the capacity to surprise us.  This film succeeds brilliantly on both counts.  We know we are going to face the loss of at least one character we feel strongly about, but we nevertheless hope beyond hope that we will be wrong.

Act of Valor transverses from one country to another, from the Phillipines to Chechnya to the United States and Mexico, showing how the ruthless nature of the illegal drug trade supports something much more sinister:  global terrorism.  Without giving too much away, the story tells about the invention of plastic flak jackets which could be worn under a tuxedo to fool airport security.  These jackets have miniature be bes which explode, descimating an entire area such as the always busy Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles.  I don’t know if such technology exists, but it is nevertheless a scary thought.

Interwoven with this story is the relationship these special op soldiers have with each other as well as their families at home.  Nearly every week at our Catholic church, we are invited to pray for our soldiers and their families.  The real peril which faces these brave men and women is rarely discussed and it can be hard at times to feel there is very much at stake, especially as we as American citizens are so well insulated from the atrocities of war that it can sometimes be hard to feel much beyond the idea that it is a shame we even need a military.  Act of Valor proves to me that war is awful and ugly, but necessary to support freedom throughout the world.  At my local library, each September 11th, the librarians and citizens of my small town gather together to mourn our collective losses as a country.  In our own way, we honor those who make the ultimate sacrifice.

As Shakespeare put it many years ago, much better than I can express, “Cowards die many times before their deaths.  The valiant never taste of death but once.”

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