What the hell even makes someone a hero anyway? I guess a hero is someone who demonstrates courage and bravery in an extremely shitty situation. I guess then heroes could come in all shapes and sizes, and arise out of various circumstances. My guess is also that being a hero means that the actions you're taking are done in the face of a high probability for personal injury, whether that injury is inflicted on his physical person or his honor.
The inspiration for this article comes from one I read today about how the first responders to the 9/11 attack are not invited to the memorial ceremonies. Apparently, specific government figureheads and only the families of victims are invited. Naturally people feel sort of outraged about it, because these heroes placed the safety and value of the lives of other people above their own. But should we be upset that they're not invited?
A professor of mine in college, a Vietnam veteran, said that he always took issue when people called him a "hero" for his service to his country. He was drafted, and he definitely didn't want to go because he was actually studying to get his PhD in political science at the time. I guess if you were in college or whatever, the government said that they'd pass over you for the draft, but he was picked nonetheless. He said that he vehemently opposed the war, but he answered the call because it was his duty to his country.
He always felt that he should not be held in any higher esteem just because he fulfilled his duty. That's how I feel about my own military service. I only spent four years in the Navy, and three of those years were spent on a boat, the USS San Jacinto (CG-56). Yes, I did a deployment to the Persian Gulf. Sure, I might have done some stuff that people considered "important." But does that make me a hero? Being on a U.S. naval warship, one of the most advanced and deadly pieces of warfighting equipment on the planet, meant that I was never in any real danger. And even if I was in danger, I still wouldn't feel like a hero.
Would I feel like a hero if I had survived ground combat and maybe saved a life or something? Probably not. Don't get me wrong: I'll always be proud of my service and recognize that I was able to do something that not everyone is able/willing to do. But "hero" will never be how I describe myself.
I have a hard time believing, though, that the real heroes in life ever actually think of themselves to be heroes. The type of person who risks his or her life for someone else does not strike me as the type of person who thinks about whether or not he or she will be venerated. Afterall, an act of heroism is supposed to be altruistic, isn't it? If you're simply doing heroic things because you want people to consider you to be a hero, then would you still be a hero?
So I hope the responders are not upset by this "slight," and we shouldn't be upset either. Yes, they're heroes. They risked their lives for the lives of others, but for many of them that's their job anyway. To be perfectly frank, they did what any of us should have done in the same situation. If they are heroes, it's not because they displayed extraordinary courage or bravery, it's because they lived up to the highest standard of what it means to be human.
So why are we obsessed with heroes? Maybe it's because they represent everything we wish we could be. Perhaps it's because we desire to live up to their example, and we admire them for having the courage we may lack. So I suppose it's not the deed that makes the hero, but rather his or her heart.