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Be a Hero Known But to God

  • Cliff Young Contributing Writer
  • Updated Jul 29, 2011
Be a Hero Known But to God

I recently saw a plaque at The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific that read, “The American Heroes Known but to God.” As I stood before the monument allowing the words to soak in, I pondered who these heroic men and women were and how they served.

A couple of years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the premiere of the documentary film Medal of Honor alongside many of the only hundred or so recipients still living. Watching their stories play out, hearing about the lives they saved and seeing the obstacles they had to overcome amidst the danger they faced truly makes them heroes.

The producer and director of the film, Roger Sherman, said, “While most of us would certainly agree that anyone wearing a Medal of Honor is a hero, every recipient I've met would categorically deny their heroism.”

We rarely hear about “genuine” heroes, ones who unselfishly serve others, who put their lives before their fellow man and who “do” rather than just talk about doing. That’s part of the reason they are heroes—for their humbleness and anonymity.

In a recent nationwide essay contest posing the question “Who is Your Hero?” many teenagers answered, “Lady Gaga,” “Michael Phelps,” “Britney Spears,” and “Michael Jackson.” Thankfully, some responded “Dad,” “Mom,” “my teacher” and “the military.”

Nowadays, the media speaks of “heroes” as those whose life and legacy is not built upon character, trust loyalty and integrity, but rather ability, good looks and money. As we have seen, many of those “heroes” don’t maintain their “title” very long.

One of my hopes is to be considered (someday) a “hero” to my son or daughter, which may be a desire many of us share; however, as the years have waned as a single, I have often wondered if I’ll ever have that opportunity.   

While many of us in this situation can sit around and hope for that to happen or hurt for what we are missing, maybe we can consider how we can selflessly invest our time and energy into others and discover a way to be a “hero known but to God.”

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full.But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:1-4).

It’s “human nature” to do something and want to be recognized for it. For some, it’s the only reason why many do what they do—for the notoriety, the accolade and the reward. However, it is “Jesus nature” to do something and not want anyone to know about it.

A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean."  Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing,"he said. "Be clean!"Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, "See that you don't tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them" (Matthew 8:2-4).

There are many ways we can make a positive difference in people’s lives without being in the military or having miraculous powers.

In the fall of 2003, Justin Perkins had just completed his junior football season when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Despite having to go through chemotherapy, he was determined to play football again. With fortitude and a positive attitude, Justin began helping other patients going through similar treatment and battling cancer alongside of him. He eventually became healthy enough to play in the final three games of his senior year and inspired his school and the community.

Justin’s wish all along was “I want to help people after I’m gone.” Sadly he lost his fight with cancer in October of 2008.

Through the efforts of a loving family and a couple of local businessmen, the Justin Perkins Sandlot Award was created in 2009 “to recognize individuals for selfless, ongoing community service and encourage their efforts” (symbolizing Justin’s character) given to distinguished graduating seniors of Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, CA and neighboring schools.

None of the recipients contributed their time to encourage the underprivileged, serve the elderly, raise $100,000 for an African village or help cancer patients for the notoriety or for a reward. They did it because “it just needed to be done.” This honor does not only support and assist students to continue to help others, but it also carries on Justin’s legacy and wish.

From this award the website was born, which has become a source and breeding ground for people throughout the country to share inspirational stories and opportunities of ways to impact others through selfless acts of kindness and servanthood.

Isn’t that what Jesus told us we should do—love others as ourselves? (Mark 12:31).

Like Justin and all of the recipients of his namesake award, we can make a huge difference if we put our own needs and desires aside to serve others. And the greatest achievement we can realize is to help someone who doesn’t even know who we are.

As I concluded my walk around the National Cemetery, one thing that stuck out in my mind was the number of markers simply labeled as “Unknown.” On each of those grave stones someone had left a single yellow mum, almost to say, “I haven’t forgotten you or what you did for us,” and neither has God. 

Be a hero known only to God today.

The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there (John 5:13).


Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in's Singles Channel.  An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback?  Send your comments and questions to