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Editor's Letter: The unsung hero

Caroline Feeney

March 20, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST

With tales of soldiers tucked inside a wooden horse on wheels, powerful gods of the sky, alluring sirens, and metal-armor clad men fighting to the death, nothing’s more dramatic than ancient Greek warfare, especially when composed in Homer’s epic hexameter. Troy and 300 show Hollywood capitalized on the mythologies’ romanticism as well.

This week Vox tells the story of Gamal Castile, a local man whose fascination with Greek warriors as a child led him to collect authentic armor akin to that of the classical world’s idealized soldiers. As a police officer, he now signifies a new age warrior.

But unlike the subject of our feature this week, and the members of our military today, the ancient warriors who inspire Gamal didn’t fight for their city so much as their own personal glory.

In Homer’s Iliad, Achilles, the greatest Greek warrior, ponders if he should rejoin the war against the Trojans. He must choose between a life of love and security or a glorious death. Blinded by pride and anger toward his commander, Achilles fails to see a third choice: using his gifts to protect his army. His decision not to fight leads to the death of his lifelong friend Patroclus, who’s killed in the heat of battle.

Today’s heroes are far more altruistic than the self-aggrandizing warriors of ancient history. So perhaps it’s without the bronze helmet and grandiose red plume that Gamal’s childhood dream translates directly to his life. Every day he puts on a different kind of uniform for a job that requires humility and true bravery. His work is a manifestation of a dream that demonstrates a protective instinct, a selflessness that drives him to serve his community.

Gamal emulates Achilles, but no doubt Achilles is the one who could learn a lesson or two from Gamal.

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