Jeff Falkel father of Sgt. Chris Falkel, a Green Beret who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005, is leading a movement to promote a renewed understanding of the word “hero.”
Americans over-use that word. The media constantly calls people heroes for public service, for donations to charities and such. But heroism is more than that: it is something that requires personal risk and sacrifice.
Jeff Falkel’s “Streets of Sacrifice” project and More than a Name Foundation are working to connect heroism to the examples of people who were truly heroic.
The Streets of Sacrifice project (as it has been tentatively named) is an initiative to rename streets or name new streets after first responders and members of the armed services who have died in the line of duty. The Streets of Sacrifice project is dedicated to reminding Americans of what real heroism is.
After his son’s death the municipality of Littleton Colorado came to Jeff Falkel with the proposition to name a new street in remembrance of his son. After going through the work of choosing a date, and finding a sign which held symbolic significance and was within visibility regulations, on March 16th 2009 a service took place unveiling the newly named street. Jeff Falkel said “Of all of the days since August 8, 2005 that day was probably the best day I had.” After that, Jeff Falkel realized he wanted others to have the same kind of experience.
Reflecting on that day and realizing the extent it had facilitated his healing, Jeff Falkel was equally motivated to help families around the nation have that experience. Since then Falkel has been working on a template which would allow anyone, anywhere, to file the required paper work to have a new street named, or a section of an old street renamed, for their son or daughter who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Falkel saw the importance of this project for future generations. He told HUMAN EVENTS, “The value system in our country we need to kind of rearrange” “people don’t understand the magnitude [of the war] … that is part of the street sign project…so you see the name and [think] wow that is somebody who actually did something. We are able to drive on this street because of what that person did”
In places like St. Louis Missouri streets have been renamed for Barack Obama, and other citizens who do not meet the criteria of being a hero. When asked what defines a hero for him, Jeff Falkel responded “The easiest definition I can give you of a hero, as I am looking at the picture of Chris’s team, these guys are heroes that to me is the definition of hero. Somebody who will gladly, and voluntarily, put their life on the line for somebody else… [Chris] died saving the lives of his teammates. That’s who he cared the most about …. He wanted to make sure that Scott lived, and that Tony lived and that Al lived.”
Jeff Falkel recounted the story of his son’s sacrifice “In the battle prior to the one that [Chris] was killed in he saved, the rest of his team. They were pinned down, the Taliban had them pinned down they couldn’t even get a shot off. Walls of fire coming at them RPGs small rounds and everything, and vehicle three [Chris’s vehicle] comes out of no where and Chris starts lobbing mortars into the rocks, and scatters the Taliban out of the rocks they were so embedded in and picks up his 50 cal and is just picking these guys off like shooting ducks in a barrel type thing.… He was so proficient in not only that battle but the previous three that [Americans] intercepted communication that [Taliban] were going to target the gunner in vehicle three…They did, he was killed by a sniper.”
Heroism is not a term that can be applied to anyone, it requires heroic actions. The stories of the individuals who are heroic are essential to understanding the term. Jeff Falkel stressed that “Those are great stories, those are the stories that need to be told”
After spending three years writing a book about his son, “The Making of OUR Warrior”, Jeff Falkel woke up with a call from his publisher who said “I got what we need to do. We need to come up with the More Than a Name foundation because we need to provide a vehicle, like you have done, as a healing device for other people, other gold-star families. It doesn’t have to be a book it can be a CD it can be a DVD it can be a tattoo, whatever.”
Realizing the importance of the heroic stories, and the healing that telling those stories allows Mr. Falkel began his More Than a Name foundation.
More Than a Name Foundation was designed with the healing of gold star families in mind. It is a foundation which supports these families in expressing reverence for the loved one they lost. It allows families to express that “your love was for more than just a name that this was a person that mattered, that this was somebody who did amazing things.”
Streets of Sacrifice project, and More Than a Name Foundation, aim to cement the stories of our heroes. “Their stories need to be told, and that’s what I am motivated to do for the rest of my life.” Jeff Flakel is a testament to how by love of one father can move beyond the realm of his own life, to benefit an unlimited number of people.