August 12, 2011
Defining Heroes and Role Models

Dr Laura -

Regarding your blog: Heroes or Role Models. I think your definition of heroes is a bit broad and perhaps dilutes the respect due to these exceptional people especially when applied to the military, police and firemen and as well to similar dangerous professions.

I spent 7 years in the military because it was a duty I felt I owed this country that took me in as a refugee from Nazi and communist Hungary. I spent 5 of those years as an Infantry Officer teaching other young men the art of war, the use of weapons as well as the finer virtues of personal conduct. That did not make me or any other military person a hero. If so we should all be granted the Medal of Honor. It is a life I chose with all the dangers associated with it. The agreement I entered into was that I would protect this nation with the understanding my life was in danger. It was a contract, a job if you will, and we all got paid a little for it. Honorable yes; brave perhaps, but nothing heroic. Similarly police and firemen choose dangerous professions but so do high tension electrical workers, miners and any number of high risk occupations. The difference is they all enter it willingly under agreement knowing the dangers involved which include the loss of life. Again brave, perhaps but heroic, not, and there is compensation involved for all of that. Additionally those professions all attempt to minimize the danger by providing training and special means of protection such as flak jackets, self-defense armament, smoke/gas masks, tasers etc. all designed to minimize risk. So the potential for the loss of life is part of the voluntary agreement and part of the 'job' if you will.

Jumping on a grenade to save your fellow warriors is not part of that 'agreement'. Running into a building or jumping into a river to save a life after rescue efforts have been formally abandoned is not part of the agreement. Those are all individual and separate moral decisions made outside of a job description and requirement that includes danger to one's life. I believe that and only that is what makes a person a 'hero'.

My uncle died from imprisonment and daily torture for 6 years in the infamous 'terror house' of Budapest at the hands of communists thugs. He refused to join the communist party and publicly opposed both Nazi and communist regimes. He had no 'agreement' to do that, and it wasn't his 'job'. It was a free, personal and purely moral decision. He was freed during the '56 revolution having been reduced to a vegetable. He no longer recognized his family and died soon after not only from his beatings but from the loss of his humanity. He is a real hero.


Posted by Staff at 12:00 AM