Post 829: HERO ~~ more than a sandwich…

In the mode of the day, just about anyone is a hero, no matter what. You might be one by someone’s definition. Or so might I. A heavy hitter in baseball might be called a hero. Someone highly admired for good works in the community might be called a hero. Entire classes of people — soldiers, policemen, teachers, parents — might be called heroes. It seems we live in an age of heroes. Just as all children are special these days, so is everyone a hero.

Yet, “hero” has a specific meaning: 

A hero (masculine or gender-neutral) or heroine (feminine) (Ancient Greek: ἥρως, hḗrōs) is a person or character who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, displays courage, bravery or self-sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good; a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. Historically, the first heroes displayed courage or excellence as warriors. The word’s meaning was later extended to include moral excellence.

So says the Wikipedia entry for “hero”.

jeep wreck

When I was in the US Army in Germany, I rolled this Jeep while returning from a photo shoot. I was absolved of responsibility (ultimately) but the accident was a perfect storm of poor vehicle design, inexperienced driver, and road conditions.

This particular model Jeep was notorious for tipping over. We had a trailer attached to carry our field gear, which further destabilized the Jeep and was my first time driving with a trailer. We ran into road construction and an international road sign I recognized too late to mean “merge left”. I merged into a German Ford. 

I had a passenger with me. Somehow, when I rolled that Jeep onto its top, the gasoline cap came off the gas tank. On a military Jeep, the gas tank is under the driver’s seat…! I was doused in gasoline. I don’t remember if my passenger was, too. With all that gasoline leaked over the Jeep and me, a spark would have toasted us both regardless. Germans gathered at the side of the Autobahn to take in the accident, curious for blood I suppose. Some were smoking cigarettes a short distance from me, this guy reeking of gasoline!

It is a well-known phenomenon that even brave and heroic soldiers occasionally crap themselves in those combat circumstances that define them as brave and heroic…. My passenger and I can’t even claim that, yet I remember us being proclaimed heroes for surviving this accident. What a crock! We were just darn lucky. Heroism had nothing to do with it.


22 thoughts on “Post 829: HERO ~~ more than a sandwich…

  1. Reminds me of some lines from a movie starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by David O’Russell, I forget the title.
    Wife to guest at dinner: So what do you do?
    Guest (Mark Wahlberg): I’m a firefighter.
    Wife: Oh, you’re a hero!
    Guest: I’m not a hero.

    • Interesting. I think the modesty of heroes comes from the realization that they did something because it needed to be done, not that they expected accolades for doing it.

      I saw an item on the news yesterday where a motorcyclist passed a car on the right side just as the car turned right into a side street. The motorcyclist was pinned under the car, struggling to catch her breath.

      When a hydraulic jack failed to lift the car high enough to extricate the woman, the rescue workers, police, and bystanders all worked together to lift the car up high enough to allow her to breath and to be removed for treatment.

      Heroes all, but I doubt a single one of them said to himself, “If I help lift that car, I will be a hero.”

        • I’m no fan either. I like old movies (1930’s through at least 1950s, sometimes even newer) because they more often have plots that don’t require lots of car chases and explosions to tell the story. I especially like the highly (contrived, I grant) mystery and detective movies from the 1930s and 1940s. The film noir period produced some excellent films, of which “Laura” is a favorite.

    • I believe in applying it to people who exhibit genuine heroic behavior. It drives me nuts when a sports character is called a hero for athletic prowess, for example. Call them a star but save “hero” for people who risk their lives pull babies from burning buildings or that sort of thing!

      • Agreed. However, the level of intelligence has degraded so badly in the USA due “dumbing down” education resulting in a severe lack of vocabulary amongst the populace. It drives me crazy when most of the memes I see use some version of Ebonics instead of proper English.

  2. Excellent post and I could not agree more. When actions of high moral character, hard work, determination, and faith become so rare that the rest of the public view it as heroic then the society is in a sad state. However, the word title has become so diluted as to mean nothing today. Sadly, it has even become offensive to those true heroes when the term is applied to a person who is clearly undeserving. Should we begin calling the true heroes, superheroes, so that the dull masses can actually tell the difference? While many behaviors can be termed heroic it does not mean that the person qualifies as said hero. When I described an effort as being herculean, I do not assume myself to be Hercules! I feel disgusted and the shame others should bear due to how this term has been muddied. The masses have always been fickle with their devotion until the true heroes melt into the background, reducing in number until a true crisis emerges. When people are facing death and destruction I can tell you that their choice of hero will certainly unify and nobody will care what he is wearing.

    • It is sort of like how I feel when someone thanks me for my service, that catch phrase applied to service people regardless of service. Though I am glad I served, I wasn’t in danger from enemy fire, for example nor was I expected to perform my job heroically. I don’t expect to be thanked for what I did and it kind of offends me that people say it without understanding the distinction between being a soldier in Vietnam during war or a motion picture photographer in Germany during peacetime.

      • When anyone has the brains to thank a service person for their service and see them in a heroic light then I would say to take it in honor of all who served. Most people are too self absorbed and ignorant to realize the sacrifices made by our service people and their families so even if the public doesn’t understand your role in peacetime they still understand that the service meant something bigger. Take the thanks for your brothers and sisters, in your craft, who did die or who were put in POW camps. You may not have seen direct danger but at least some of the public recognizes that uniform, that service should be honored regardless of the role he or she played. As with all organizations whether it be family or nation, everyone plays a vital role even if we all cannot be heroes.

  3. I think that anyone who puts on a uniform and is in danger of paying the ultimate sacrifice is a hero. A lot of our men and women are no longer treated even as well as homeless people. A soldier in my family who finished his time had a dickens of a time getting help.

Leave a Reply. You may comment using your, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.