Tuesday, January 1, 2008

True heroism

Whoever has been reading my blog for a while now probably knows I have this desire to be a hero. The question is, though, how do you define "hero?" There are silent heroes, there are leading heroes, but what does it mean to actually be a hero?

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a hero as thus:

Main Entry:
Inflected Form(s):
plural heroes
Latin heros, from Greek hērōs
14th century
1 a: a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability b: an illustrious warrior c: a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities d: one that shows great courage
2 a
: the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work b: the central figure in an event, period, or movement
plural usually heros : submarine 2
: an object of extreme admiration and devotion : idol

Joseph Campbell defines a hero like this:

A hero is any male or female who leaves the world of his or her everyday life to undergo a journey to a special world where challenges and fears are overcome in order to secure a reward (special knowledge, healing potion, etc.) which is then shared with other members of the hero’s community.

The Greeks, on the other hand, saw a hero as someone of high, noble birth who had to bring order to a disordered world and usually displayed virtue, courage, and chivalry while doing so.

Until recently, my vision of a hero was some odd mixture of all of these. However, there is another kind of heroism that I have discovered this past weekend. There is no fancy term for it. Just a key phrase. Standing strong in what you believe.

An unspoken policy on my blog is not to write about other people. There are too many risks involved of that person finding out and of the writer getting into trouble for it. However, like all rules and policies, this one sometimes is meant to be broken.

I want to write about a close family friend whose peers are busy learning in Israel or off to college. He, however, is headed somewhere else. He is going to Iraq.

For any marine going to Iraq, that act alone is one of heroism. But that is the obvious kind of heroism. That is the kind of heroism that is talked about all the time, that is written about in books, that is lauded and admired - and for good reason. But for this specific marine, there is more to it than that. It is not every day that you hear of a Jewish boy joining the American marines. In Israel, Jewish boys join the army all the time. In America...not so much. So what does it mean when a Jewish American boy joins the marines?

I'll tell you. It means he has a great sense of purpose in what he wants for himself. He is not someone who does things "because it is done." Far too many people do that when they go to Israel to learn for a year (or two, or three) after high school. This family friend is doing something because he believes in it and because he feels it is right. That, to me, is heroism.

I don't mean to say that every time someone goes against the grain of what is expected, it is heroic. But I believe that true heroism is when a person can see past "everyone else" and, in doing so, sees himself. It is a great and wondrous thing to find oneself in the midst of the general crowd. It is so easy to get lost there and most people do, but to have the strength to pull out and truly be oneself is an act of heroism.

I wish him much luck and success on his journey, where he will undoubtedly be met with various trials and tests. I hope he passes all of them with flying colors and comes back safely. I also hope that he gains something from this incredible experience in his life. But no matter what happens, he will always be a hero.


Semper fi!


G said...


Ezzie said...

That's amazing. Wow.

the apple said...

That's really nice, Erachet.

OOH! I just had an idea. Why don't you do your senior thesis on heros in literature - namely, the unlikely hero?

Btw, is it just me, or does that picture look like the Golden Snitch?

Scraps said...

Well said. Hats off to him.

Erachet said...

I see, I see, Apple, this way you can do yours on The Wizard of Oz. :D (just kidding!)

the apple said...

Noooooooooooo. Never. :D