Heroes don’t call themselves heroes. That is the message that comes through strongly in Clint Eastwood’s new film. It’s a humility common in heroes and a point completely missed by those posers asking the world to consider themselves heroes.
Three boys return from war to act the part for the fundraisers looking to payroll the war. They don’t once consider themselves the heroes – pointing instead to those left behind.
The three boys/men have wildly varying responses to their newfound hero status. Rene Gagnon laps it up. He understands the media attention is a way to get away from the war – a war he wasn’t really cut out for anyway, seen with his demotion to “runner”. Ira Hayes can’t handle what he feels is a betrayal of those left behind and Doc Bradley just acts as Doc Bradley always does: he looks after people and acts with dignity.
Ultimately the film is a depressing take on how these boys were taken advantage of and that the idea of the Heroes of Iwo Jima was bigger than the reality. The image and story helped a nation feel positive about a war that had gone on too long.
edit: Here’s a link to a story about a group of kids visiting Washington who meet the author of the book and get a background story on the six boys in the statue.