Every 4th of July people try to quantify what a “hero” is. Really cool slogans are posted on the internet from various organizations or businesses: “We are the Land of the Free because of the Brave” (meaning our heroes); or “So much is owed by so many to so few” (meaning our heroes); “Celebrate our Independence by remembering those who sacrificed everything”(meaning our heroes).
Let me give you my cut on this…because…it’s my blog. As I start, let’s define what a hero isn’t! A hero isn’t someone who hits 50 homers; throws 45 touchdowns; scores 60 points. A hero isn’t someone who makes $100 million a year; wins the Senate race in Ohio; dates supermodels; wins an Oscar. They may be heroes in other ways, but not for those reasons.
A hero is someone who is always there…always pluggin’ away….never quitting….someone who motivates and inspires you. Parents, teachers, coaches, siblings, friends can all be heroes. You know them, see them, watch them. You honor them after the fact when you realize, “Hey, they were right. They took the time to show me and I’m so thankful.”
A hero doesn’t ask for recognition. A hero accepts his/her responsibilities; works hard to better themselves and others; sacrifices time, money, and energy. When people thank me for my military service, I can only say, “you’re welcome.” I didn’t join the Navy to get recognized. I joined because it was cool; paid better than most jobs out of college; and the chicks dug the uniforms. I don’t rise when the announcer at the ball game asks those who served our country to “stand up and be recognized as a hero.” Why should I? I’m not a hero for that. The heroes are the ones who never made it home. My friends who took off one day and never landed are my heroes. I miss them every day and wonder “why them…and not me?”
If people really want to recognize a hero, then give him a job, help them out, ask how they feel…you know…talk to them as people who have hopes and dreams. It’s trendy right now to shake a veteran’s hand and thank them for their sacrifice. I remember when that wasn’t the case.
Teddy Roosevelt wrote an eloquent and accurate definition of a hero in his speech about the Man in the Arena:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
A hero is the one is the arena; a doer of deeds; a sacrificer for the worthy causes; who fails but never quits; one who lives and not just exists.