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Editor's column: Quit tossing around the word ‘hero’ like it’s just another word

August 3, 2013
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

United States Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, the man who released classified documents to Wikileaks, has been referred to as a hero for his actions. It leads me to wonder: Has the word "hero" become so watered-down that it doesn't really carry the same meaning as it once did?

Just so you know, to me, any member of the military who is willing to sacrifice their life to ensure our freedom, automatically gets to put "hero" on their resum. Which, of course, leads to the obvious question: Must Manning give up the "hero" label now that he's been indicted on those 19 charges, including espionage and theft?

Many don't believe so. But Manning's is a real gray area.

By leaking information that it has been said put troops on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq in harm's way, Manning, some say, became a traitor (he was acquitted of aiding the enemy earlier this week). But in doing what he did, others think he also sent an overdue message to the U.S. government that it cannot get away with covering up its mistakes.

"Hero" is a big word, and we have succeeded to reduce its meaning down to nothing. To earn the rep, one requires bravery, skill and selflessness.

Our troops are heroes. Cops are heroes. Firefighters are heroes. Doctors can be heroes. EMTs, too. Even regular Joes can be heroes; we see them emerge every time there's a natural disaster or some kind of tragic event like an explosion or a shooting - events that we see far too often these days.

I think it's time we begin to reserve the title of "hero" for special circumstances, special people.

I love sports more than I probably should, but nothing bothers me more than when I hear an athlete given the hero title for making a basket or hitting a home run or kicking a field goal. These guys aren't heroes, so let's stop telling them they are. Their paychecks might be larger than life, but their actions aren't.

Kirby Puckett was no more a hero when he hit that home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series than Jack Morris was when he pitched a complete game in Game 7 that year. Two great Hall-of-Famers, two great moments we'll never forget.

But heroes? Pssh. Not even close.

The American Heritage College Dictionary defines a hero as a "person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, esp. one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life." Remember that definition the next time you hear someone called a "hero."

I wouldn't mind being called a "hero" someday. I just hope that if it does happen, I earned it.



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