What/Who is a Hero?

One of my friends placed the following in one of his Facebook status updates:

‘People call celebrities, footballers, actors and sports stars heroes. To them I say, you are wrong.

This is a hero. Fought and died for his country; but more importantly fought and died for his mates. What have you done today?


Now, I took umbrage to this statement and I’m getting fed up with the plethora of similar statements that are appearing on social networking sites, like Facebook.

Why am I so against this statement?

Because it is wrong in the most terrible way.  It’s a ill conceived bit of writing that has been done with little, or no thinking.  Unfortunately it, and its like, are all so prevalent on today’s Facebook.  It is the sort of comment that has flooded the popular social networking site it was written on, a site that is becoming more frequently known as Hatebook.  And I think it is time to stop them.

So what is wrong with my friend’s statement?

If you visit the site he has placed the link to, you can see that …’To date, only 1,360 VCs have been awarded. Lance Corporal Ashworth’s is the 1,361st, and the first to be awarded to a British soldier since Corporal Bryan Budd was posthumously honoured in 2006.’

and if you read the full article you will be amazed at Lance Corporal Ashworth’s bravery, the citation reading…

Despite the ferocity of the insurgent’s resistance, Ashworth refused to be beaten. His total disregard for his own safety in ensuring that the last grenade was posted accurately was the gallant last action of a soldier who had willingly placed himself in the line of fire on numerous occasions earlier in the attack. This supremely courageous and inspiring action deserves the highest recognition.

So, is Lance Cpl Ashworth a hero…damn right he is!

Lance Corporal James Ashworth (right) with a colleague in Afghanistan

Lance Corporal James Ashworth (right) with a colleague in Afghanistan [Picture: via MOD]

He died protecting his colleagues and was awarded the highest military honour you can receive in the UK, the Victoria Cross.  So my friend has got this right.  But what about the first part of the statement…I’m leaving out what I’ve done today bit until the end…I want to look at the first part, the beginning of the statement that made my blood run cold. Here it is again…

‘People call celebrities, footballers, actors and sports stars heroes. To them I say, you are wrong.

So, why can’t these type of people be heroes.  When I questioned this, he came back with the following

‘The idolisation of the popular culture has gone too far. Applauding someone who excels in any field is fitting (Oscars, Grammy awards, Nobel prizes), yet it doesn’t make them Heroes.
People can hero worship who the like, as they are entitled; how I disagree.

It is the difference between being brave in the face of the enemy (or opposition, using your Burmese example) and showing valour in the face of the enemy. People are brave every day, but that doesn’t make them heroes.’

Right, so what he’s saying is that the only hero you can have is one who’s basically been in the military.  Right, well I’ve been in the in the military for over 21 years, went out to Afghanistan, served in Northern Ireland during the troubles and have limped home a sick Tornado fighter on may an occasion and I TOTALLY, FULL HEARTEDLY DISAGREE with his inane comment and the plethora of similar ones on Hatebook.

Here’s why.

The Oxford English dictionary has the following definition of Hero:

Definition of hero

noun (plural heroes)

  • 1a person, typically a man, who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities:a war hero
  • …the chief male character in a book, play, or film, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathize: the hero of Kipling’s story

  • …(in mythology and folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semi-divine origin, in particular one whose exploits were the subject of ancient Greek myths.

  • 2 (also hero sandwich) North Americananother term for hoagie.
Now, we can probably ignore the 2nd part of the definition, I don’t believe my friend was talking about sandwiches, and concentrate on the first line….who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities…And this is where my friend has got it ALL wrong, where his statement flies in the face of all those who have made incredible achievements in their own fields and said to them…’sure they were okay, but you’re not in the military, so really, they’re just not that super.’  Do he really think that Alexander Fleming should not be considered a hero for discovering penicillin, the forefather of antibiotics, leading to the saving of millions of lives, the possibility of successful complex surgery and organ transplants.  He’s a bit of a hero in my mind.  But he’s not been in the military.

Alexander Fleming in the Lab

So what IS a Hero?

For me, a hero is someone we aspire to be, a person we look up to and whose qualities we want to reproduce in ourselves.  When we were young the hero could well have been a parent or older sibling, a teacher or scout leader.  But are these people heroes?  YES.  A hero is someone that is deemed such by the one who has labelled them thus.  They are the good teachers, the ones that make you do the work because it’s a joy to do it for them, they are the parents that you want to become yourself.  They’re also the sports star that scores the goal that wins the cup, hits the six that wins the test series, or the actor who brings to life your favourite Dickens character and makes you laugh, smile and weep with their portrayal of Scrooge.  So why can’t our hero’s be none military?  Why are there those on Facebook who cannot believe that unless you’re being shot at, that those exemplary in fields other than the armed forces can only be thought of as okay.  I mean, in my mind, any one who receives a Noble Prize is pretty much my hero.  They are the people who’ve made a difference, the best in their profession and above all, they are the Heroes we wish we were capable of replicating.

Simply put…they are our Heroes and they work in ALL WALKS OF LIFE.

So, to my friend, I say…’I think you’re wrong’…completely and utterly.

But that is not my point, or the reason for this post.

So what is my point?

I, like many of you, will have had you Facebook inundated with posts that remember war heroes from time past.  This I applaud.  However, it is the inane comments that go with them that I thoroughly dislike, the… ‘this is a real hero and footballers should be ashamed of how much they earn’.  Why?  We known the person they’ve mentioned is a hero, and remembering them is a laudable exercise.  So why have the writer’s sullied the post with the inane comment.  Do they think the hero they’re mentioning would appreciate them putting down all others outside of the military that we aspire to replicate.  I don’t think so. I would assume that they themselves had heroes during their lifetime that were nothing to do with the armed forces.  What’s more, I believe they would wince at the thought that their endeavours were being manipulated in such a way; cheapened to get a rise out of others on Facebook, a way to add controversy into the writer’s mundane timeline.

So what should we do?

Me, from now on I’m simply ignoring them.  I won’t allow the misinformed to darken my day with their inane posts in the hope that they’ll stop writing controversial subtitles to otherwise fine links. Instead I’m going to remember those who have made such an impact on the planet we live on, military or civilian, and thank them for the wonderful contribution they’ve made to all our lives.

Here’s just a few that I believe are heroes:

Marie Curie, Wellington, Winston Churchill, J R Tolkien, Laurence Oliver, John Lennon, The Monty Python Team, Alexander Flemming, J K Rowling, David Beckham, Jessica Ennis, Ridley Scott, Tim Berners-Lee(created the internet), R J Mitchell (designed the Spitfire), Dame Judi Dench, Lenny Henry (began and runs Comic Relief), Douglas Adams, Alfred Nobel, President’s Roosevelt and Obama, Nelson Mandella, Mother Teresa, Ghandi…and there are so many more.

These guys are top of my Heroes of Comedy…simply brilliant.

Oh yes, what have I done today.  Well I’ve walked and fed the dog…and I think he believes I’m a hero, but he’s biased

Sam, as well as being the first mobile towel holder, also chases squirrels, balls and will happily eat the lasagne you’ve left in a bag at the front door, meant for your cousins.

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