What is a hero?

Is a hero “faster than a speeding bullet?” Is a hero “more powerful than a locomotive?” Is a hero “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?” The answer is yes when discussing fictitious heroes; however, we are not. I want to talk about real life heroes.

What is a hero?

According to Merriam-Webster, a hero is defined as a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.

When I think of heroes, I immediately think of firemen. I will always have the images of the firemen on 9/11 etched into my memory. I see them running toward the burning buildings as thousands of others fled the opposite way.

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When I think of heroes, I think of police officers, who are only a traffic stop away from not going home to their families each night.

When I think of heroes, I think of Soldiers. While I don’t think of every Soldier as a hero, we certainly have our fair share.

Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Bennie Adkins of Opelika is a hero and is very close to receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Bennie Adkins of Opelika is a hero and is very close to receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor. 

Please read CSM Adkins’ story here.

I think of those who served during WWII to save our way of life. I think of those who served so admirably in the largely unforgotten Korean War. I think of those who served in the unpopular Vietnam War with little or no support back home. And today, I think of those men and women who voluntarily serve so others don’t have to serve involuntarily.

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Christopher Reeve

Reeve played Superman in four movies, so he knows a thing or two about being a hero. He did, however, star in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, so it’s his judgment that I question.

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The severe weather this past week brought out its share of heroes.

In Tuscaloosa, 21 year old student-athlete John Servati died a hero. While seeking shelter in a basement with his girlfriend, a wall began to collapse. He was able to hold up the wall just long enough for his girlfriend to escape. Seconds later, he was crushed beneath the crumbled wall.

A friend and Alabama teammate of Servati tweeted that his mother wished only for two things: That her son would swim at the University of Alabama and that someday he would die a hero. John Servati fulfilled his mom’s wishes.

Photo courtesy of the University of Alabama via Facebook

Photo courtesy of the University of Alabama via Facebook

In Mississippi, Ruth Bennett died clutching the last child left at her daycare center as a tornado wiped the building off its foundation. A firefighter who came upon the body gently pulled the four year old from her arms.

Bennett was among at least 35 people killed in a two-day outbreak of tornadoes and other violent weather that destroyed homes from the Midwest to the Deep South. The child, whose name was not released, was alive when she was pulled from Bennett’s arms and was taken to a hospital. Her condition was not known. UPDATE: She is improving! Read the story here.

Ruth Bennett had a passion for caring for kids. In the end, she gave her life so that 4 year old 4 year old Ashtyn Rose Mitchell could live.

Ruth Bennett had a passion for caring for kids. In the end, she gave her life so that 4 year old 4 year old Ashtyn Rose Mitchell could live.

Daniel Wassom, husband and father of two, was huddled in a hallway of his Arkansas home during the storm with his wife, daughters, and a neighbor. At the height of the tornado, a large piece of lumber crashed toward the family. Wassom, who served in the Air Force, shielded five year old Lorelei, taking the brunt of the fatal blow to his neck. Lorelei suffered a shoulder injury and was hospitalized.

Wassom, a father of two daughters — Lorelei, 5, and Sydney, 7 — died Sunday sheltering his family from the tornado. Photo courtesy of the Wassom family.

Wassom, a father of two daughters — Lorelei, 5, and Sydney, 7 — died Sunday sheltering his family from the tornado. Photo courtesy of the Wassom family.

Our parents should be a hero to each of us, respectively.

My dad was a hero to me. In fact, he might as well have been Superman, without the speed, the power, or leaping ability. My dad was a juvenile diabetic who lost his eyesight in his twenties. In spite of his inability to see, he still went to work every day, setting a great example for my brother and me. Our hero died at 35 but lives in our hearts forever.

For many of us, athletes are our heroes. Bo Jackson was and is a hero to me. Not only was he one of the greatest athletes the world had ever seen, but, like me, he stuttered. As a child, I knew very few people who were afflicted with stuttering. Bo could’ve simply let his athleticism do the talking, pardon the pun, but he had a voice, and he used it.

Bo knows.

Bo knows.

Today’s definition of a hero is perhaps subjective, but, whether we know it or not, rest assured, there are many heroes among us. More than likely, there is a hero in you.

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

Riding in a windowless Humvee on a cold, wet, and snowy morning in Iraq in Feb 2004.

Riding in a windowless Humvee on a cold, wet, and snowy morning in Iraq in Feb 2004.

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