Hear me out
Who are you calling a Hero? I knew a real one
We are getting carried away with the "Hero" label. We've lost perspective on who a real hero is and our world is worse off because of it.
Hear me out on this...
I lost a friend last week. My father-in-law, Jesse Campos, passed away in Houston two weeks shy of his 90th birthday. He was one of about 1,000 World War II veterans who died last Friday. A thousand more will likely die today; a thousand WW II vets die every day.
Jesse Campos was a hero in every sense of the word. He entered the War right after Pearl Harbor, fighting in the Pacific in places then unknown — Borneo, Luzon, the Philippines. Twice, bomb fragments found him. He was awarded two Purple Hearts and three Bronze Stars for heroic acts on the battlefield. He was on a ship headed to invade Japan when the atomic bombs were detonated ending WW II. He returned from the War and became a community activist fighting for the rights of Latinos in education and in society. Jesse Campos was a Hero.
We need Heroes, maybe now more than ever; real, true blue, dyed in the wool, care about others, making our world a better place Heroes.
Today we hear the word "hero" bandied about so often, it's become virtually meaningless. Members of the military are designated "heroes" just because, well, they are members of the military "fighting for our freedom." Firefighters, police officers, even philanthropists — all "heroes" because of their chosen career path. Sorry, I can't agree. A police officer fired for driving drunk or abusing a victim, they are not my hero; Nidal Malik Hasan joined the Army and killed 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood (or is so accused), certainly not a hero; but I'll bet someone called him one at one time just because he joined up.
No, a true "Hero" (with a capital "H") must earn the title. I do not mean to dismiss or diminish the honor of these wonderful careers, or the people who enter them, but joining the Army — as my nephew did (Jesse's grandson) and is now serving in Iraq — does not automatically earn you Hero status. Becoming a police officer or firefighter does not and should not add "Hero" before anyone's first name.
The dictionary defines "hero" as "one of distinguished courage or ability, admired for brave deeds and noble qualities." Running into a burning building to see if anyone is trapped, facing down a gunman meaning to harm innocent people, saving a fallen comrade on the field of battle, caring for an abandoned child when no one else will; those people engaging in acts of distinguished bravery and selflessness, they are my Heroes.
Here's why this is important: Our society is way too full of selfish, greedy, egotistical assholes. People for whom the ends justify the means and the ends are usually "what's in it for me." Bernie Madoff anyone? John Edwards? Barry Bonds? Lindsay Lohan? Anyone involved with the NFL (okay maybe a cheap shot there, we will have football)? I'm sure you can list another couple hundred.
We need Heroes, maybe now more than ever; real, true blue, dyed in the wool, care about others and acting on it, making our world a better place kind of Heroes. We need role models. People we can emulate, people we can raise up and honor in front of our children by showing, "This is what a real hero looks like, honey, be like her." If everyone's a hero, if we throw that word around carelessly and too often, we diminish its meaning and lose a valuable opportunity to teach the next generation how to care, how to give back, how to create a better society, how to be selfless and act on it.
My friend Jesse Campos was a Hero. I'm glad my daughters grew up knowing him, watching him as he worked to make his world a little better for them. I am grateful to him for that. We need more Heroes like him.