**During the military conflict which Vietnamese high school students are taught--reasonably--to call 'the American War', Sen. John McCain flew bombing missions in Operation Rolling Thunder. In 1968, the CIA estimated that 72,000 Vietnamese civilians were killed during the failed campaign. If (as seems reasonable) 850 American pilots died during the offensive, then approximately eighty-five Vietnamese civilians died for every one US flier. Operation Rolling Thunder accomplished little if anything, militarily.
'They're all heroes,' we occasionally hear, from people with a story line to sell. But if you're a soldier whose death occurs during an unjust and unsuccessful operation or in a non-combat accident, you're not a hero. Such a death is a tragedy, but no responsible parent would hope for her son to risk death in such a fiasco.
To die a military hero should require having served honorably taking it to the enemy or participating in some militarily worthwhile, just activity.
If you're serving in Iraq and you die in a non-combat-related automobile accident, frankness requires us to refrain from labelling your death heroic. If you crash an airplane in Afghanistan and the accident is attributed to 'pilot error', your claim to 'hero' status is much undermined.
So much rides on the still-unreleased report on the Osprey accident in which Eden Prairie's Randall Voas--presumed pilot-in-command--died.
To be clear, I take no position on what that result should be--though I want it to be truthful.