Heroes Day has been marked since the beginning of independence with work starting on building the national shrine in September 1981 and the first internments, or reinternments, at the National Heroes Acre the following year.
The provincial and district heroes acres came into being about the same time, both for those liberation fighters whose remains were being discovered and being given a decent burial, and for those who were now succumbing, very often in those early days from the injuries they had received in battle.
At the beginning all these special cemeteries were for those who had died in the nationalist struggle or in the liberation war, and the many thousand who had been killed and for whom there was no known grave were not forgotten, with the major Tomb of the Unknown Soldier memorialising these so many.
As time went on others were declared heroes, national, provincial and liberation heroes, for what they had done after independence in serving Zimbabwe and helping to build Zimbabwe.
That number will grow. Of course there were many, and that number is also growing, who had fought in the struggle and then continued to work for the country they had helped free.
So what makes a hero?
The clear answer is that dedication to freedom, the liberation in all aspects of their country and their fellow citizens, without counting the cost, without seeking self gain. The heroes are those who lived for others, who lived for the ideal of a free Zimbabwe in all aspects of that freedom.
So there are many heroes, and in many ways all of us should be striving for what the listed heroes strove for, although our names may never be listed outside our own families and colleagues.
It is this that makes Heroes Day doubly important. We acknowledge and commemorate those buried at the national, provincial and district shrines, that is why we assemble in these places.
We acknowledge the many others, that multitude, buried elsewhere sometimes in known graves, sometimes in unknown graves. We give thanks that our nation produced such men and women, since without them we would still be under the rule of others, still be denied the fruit of labour, still be denied opportunity, still be denied the right to choose out own course in life, still be denied the right to choose those who govern us.
In other words we would be unfree and poor, just moving from day to day without hope.
But the other side of Heroes Day is equally important, the sense that we, the living, must not just commemorate the dead heroes but also dedicate our own lives to those ideals that they lived by, not so much because we want a fancy State funeral and a place in a heroes cemetery but because we want to live in the sort of country they fought for, and have our children and grandchildren live in that sort of country.
The heroes deserve a lot more than our gratitude, a lot more than us assembling once a year and saying “thank you”.
They are in those cemeteries or scattered across many other graves because they lived their lives, every day, for the cause for which they fought in so many ways and for which they eventually died.
And if we are serious today is a good day to reflect on that, to reflect on how we should be living our lives, to ask ourselves if we are just living for ourselves or whether we are living for our fellow brothers and sisters.
It is worthwhile to think about these things because unless we do Zimbabwe could fade away into nothingness simply because no one cared enough to push the country forward into greatness.
We are the ones who need to care.
In his weekly Sunday Mail column President Mnangagwa, who knew almost all the national heroes personally and as Minister, Speaker, Minister and President has been at so many of the funerals, looked hard at what makes a hero.
One major factor that emerges is not just being part of the struggle for a free and economically just Zimbabwe, but also a consistency in participating in that struggle, day after day, month after month, year after year and, if granted the time, decade after decade.
He was also careful not to condemn those who did not have that consistency and suggested they needed to be, in end, remembered more for what they had done before turning down a side road, although we needed to remember the sort of temptations that could lead to these side turnings, and remember that the only perfect vision is looking behind us, seeing in hindsight what we should have done.
While hindsight can help us identify potential errors and pitfalls, it is not much use if you want to look forward and want to build something better than what you have or what you inherited.
The heroes looked forward, and that is what we need to remember them for, because their vision, their dedication and their tremendous efforts led to our freedom.
So today we all, as a nation, need to commemorate those who made it possible for us to choose how we want to live, and then dedicate ourselves so that these choices do not just make our own lives better but also serve our country and our fellow citizens.