Who Are the Real Heroes in Today's World?

Updated on July 13, 2016

Who Are Your Heroes?

Are they sports champions that may have carried a team to an award winning season, or maybe they're an Olympian who took home the gold?

Is your hero a celebrity who takes home the awards from starring roles in movies or television, or plays music for thousands of screaming fans in sold out stadiums?

Or maybe your hero is the CEO of a large cooperation who keeps the profit margins high for investors, a political figure who has successfully served the people for several terms, or a religious leader who has led many people on their spiritual journeys.

While all these professions certainly do include many people who inspire and lift our expectations of ourselves and others to a higher plane, giving them the title "Hero" doesn't always apply.

Pick a Hero

Who would you bestow the title "Hero" on?

See results

Defining a "Hero"

So, what is the difference between a person who is a "Real Hero," and a person who is an icon, an idol, a mentor, or is setting a good example? And, why is it important to split hairs on this point?

Because, if we're not conscientious about who we honor with the extraordinary title of "Hero," then it will come to mean very little.

For example, the word "Awesome." The Northern Lights are awesome; inspiring jaw dropping 'awe' and eye popping 'wonder' at the beauty of the natural spectacle. But, in recent times, the word awesome has come to be used as slang; as in, "Wow, your new shoes are awesome." While shoes can be pretty, nice, or even fabulous, shoes can't be considered awesome. Societies' incessant use of the word 'awesome' has diminished its meaning; thereby, diminishing what really is awesome.

The same goes for word hero. With diminished use of the word, comes diminished meaning of the title. We, as a society, soon lose sight of what it really means to be a hero, and real heroes lose the degree of respect they deserve.

Definition of "Hero."

  • A Hero is someone who rises up, from whatever their station in life is, or whatever their circumstances are, and comes to embody a representative of the highest level that a human being can attain.
  • A Hero is someone who knowingly and voluntarily makes a conscious decision to sacrifice something of one’s self for the greater good of others.
  • A Hero doesn’t seek notoriety or praise for personal glorification, but instead, uses whatever attention he receives to perpetuate his achievements to a greater degree.
  • The actions of a hero make a positive impact on another, or many, so as to change or alter the outcome of a situation that would otherwise be detrimental.
  • A Hero contributes something beneficial to the world for the betterment of humanity as a whole, or for the spiritual world in creating a path that leads us all in higher directions.
  • A Hero does not expect compensation for their heroic deed.

Not a Daisy

Many people define a hero as someone who is in a traditional hero role or profession; such as, a firefighter, a police officer, or a soldier. But, wearing the uniform of these noble professions does not automatically elevate an individual to the status of hero.

According to an article in thetimes-tribune.com, "Firefighters who start fires, and why they do it, have long been part of an American obsession with true crime." Firefighter-arsonists are a problem that is often downplayed for department morale reasons, but it is a real problem, which many believe stem from a "hero complex." The need to be a hero becomes so overwhelming to the disturbed firefighter, that they set a fire, become the first one there, and perform heroically in order to receive the accolades.

Police Officers encounter extraordinary amounts of illicit circumstances, which predisposes them to corruption. According to an article in the dailymail.com, "Anti-corruption units across the country are wrestling with a workload of 245 cases every month, a rise of 62 per cent from the year before. In most of the investigations, eight out of ten involve officers accused of illegally disclosing information to criminals and third parties."

Soldiers certainly aren't exempt from corruption. Just this week, a jury selection is being held for a U.S. soldier who killed 16 Afghan civilians. According to an article featured in worldnews.nbcnews.com, "A U.S. service member shot dead at least 15 members of two Afghan families as well as a 16th person before turning himself in, officials said Sunday. U.S. officials said the soldier was a staff sergeant. Some witnesses said more than one soldier was involved, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a statement cited only one shooter in what he called "an assassination," adding that nine of the dead were children, and three were women. The soldier reportedly left his base in the early hours Sunday and went to two villages just a few hundred yards away. He then opened fire on Afghan civilians sleeping in their homes."

The point here is not to discredit these noble professions, but to show that it takes more than a uniform and a title to be a real hero.

A Hero

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn "Al" Cashe
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn "Al" Cashe

Not A Daisy, but a Rose

What it takes is exemplified by many every day who not only wear the uniform, but also walk the walk and talk the talk. Take for instance Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe. According to an article in Stars and Stripes (www.stripes.com) Sgt. Cashe became the ultimate hero.

"When the roadside bomb detonated, it ripped through the fuel tank of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and ignited like napalm. The seven men seated inside were knocked unconscious and had no chance to escape the fire.

But the gunner, Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, managed to crawl out of the burning wreckage. Wounded and drenched in diesel fuel, he pulled the Bradley’s driver from his seat before the flames reached there, dragging him to safety.

And then he went back.

The 16-year Army veteran had seen a dozen of his men die on that tour in Iraq, and he couldn’t bear to lose another. His uniform caught fire as he desperately tried to open the Bradley’s hatch.

By the time he got in, all he had on was his body armor and helmet, the rest of his uniform in ashes or seared to his skin. With help, he carried one of his dying men out of the fire and back to horrified medics trying to triage their charred colleagues.

And then he went back.

Soldiers couldn’t tell what rounds pinging off the Bradley were from insurgents’ weapons and which ones were from their own ammunition ablaze in the vehicle. As he reached the next soldier, Cashe tried to douse the fire on his uniform, only to realize that his own skin was peeling off from the heat. As another soldier helped pat out the flames, Cashe moved the next wounded friend to safety.

And then he went back.

Cashe was the last of the injured to be evacuated from the scene. Doctors later said he suffered second and third degree burns over 90 percent of his body, but he still walked off the battlefield under his own power."

Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, and five of the men he saved from the blazes, succumbed to their burns and wounds weeks later in Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Cashe was able to tell his family that he was glad that at least his men had been able to say "goodbye" to their families.

Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe is one of my heroes.

NYC Firefighters Raising the Flag 911
NYC Firefighters Raising the Flag 911

Never Forget

No one will ever forget the courageous acts of heroism by New York City Firefighters and Police Officers during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Trade Towers and The Pentagon. Three hundred and forty-three firefighters and 60 police officers gave up their lives for what they truly believed in.

In responding to the screams of people who were trapped inside the burning buildings,these brave heroes ran to, and entered a building they knew they may not exit. Because of their brave, selfless efforts, hundreds were saved.

These courageous souls are my heroes.


Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai

Lifetime Heroes

There are many everyday heroes, whose heroic acts go undocumented, unheard of, and unappreciated.

Teachers who notice a student with reoccurring bruises, or mismatched shoes, or no lunch money, and take the initiative to get involved.

Doctors who perform their services free of charge for someone who has no insurance.

The homeless person who struggles to feed himself, but shares what he has with a starving animal.

Some spend their lives as a hero, or as a "Shero."

Mother Teresa spent her life caring for the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India. She devoted her life to caring for the sick, the poor, and established a hospice center for the blind, aged, and disabled; and a leper colony. Mother Teresa exemplifies what it means to sacrifice your life, in a lifelong effort, for others.

Malala Yousafzai is a 15 year old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban, because she "promoted Western thinking" in that she had criticized the Taliban's actions against women. Malala stated her belief that all girls should have the opportunity to go to school, and for that, she was targeted and shot. Now, after her recovery, she is bravely doing just that and returning to school. Malala is living a very dangerous life on a daily basis, standing up for girls and women's rights everywhere.

Who Are Your Heroes/Sheroes?

Icons, idols, mentors, or heroes? Where do you see the differences?

In the Comments section below, please talk about your heroes/sheroes. Who are they? What have they done that you honor them with the title "Hero?"


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    • profile image

      Collin H. 16 months ago

      My hero is my grandfather and my mother who fought for there country, and tried to make it a better place, and walked about not getting a thanks, and not wanting a thanks.

    • profile image

      rayan 20 months ago

      dam dood

    • profile image

      Kathleen Walker 3 years ago

      Jim Dunlap aka Dr. Dunlap is my hero. I grew up in Plano, Texas and his program of bringing wildlife into the classrooms forever inspired and changed the course of my young life, and that of many other students and teachers in our community.

      He recently passed away this week, but his legacy and love for wildlife will continue in our community because of his passion, hard work and drive throughout the course of his life.

      He meets ALL of your definitions of a “Hero”:

      He rose up from humble beginnings and attained the attention of everyone in our community through his passion and love for wildlife and teaching. He brought wildlife into the classroom often traveling with “Katy” his 23 foot python. I remember petting her and it being the highlight of my day when Dr. Dunlap would come to our classroom, education at its best!

      He sacrificed his time, energy, and knowledge for the greater good of all wildlife, students, teachers, and members of our community. He rehabilitated animals to be released back into the wild and those that could not be released he used to educate the public so that other animals did not share their fate.

      He never sought notoriety for himself and only used any notoriety he received to further his cause to educate and advocate for animals and their care. He only wanted what was best for the animals and students he cared for.

      He has made a positive impact on our entire community, making me and others aware of nature and wildlife. Without his service and dedication our community would have no education on wildlife, or information on how to advocate for and protect it for future generations.

      He contributed his life to animals, and teaching, and we all are better for having been in his presence. He provided a sanctuary for injured wildlife and an education center for the community that cannot be replaced.

      He did not seek compensation for his efforts, and the only compensation he gained is knowing he left this community a better one than when he found it, and that his work will live on in the people he inspired that are still carrying on his legacy.

      Dr. Dunlap you will be missed, and you will always be my HERO!

      Thank you,

      Kathleen Walker



    • profile image

      Slay Queen 3 years ago

      tbh you are y'all my Heroes bc you are bae

    • profile image

      your bæ 3 years ago

      God, my parents, and Jon Bon Jovi

    • profile image

      Mr. McClutchen 3 years ago

      Our army. Duh

    • profile image

      cameron rich 3 years ago

      I picked opra because if wemon didn't watch her show then they would have to much time on their hands.

    • profile image

      Johnathan mayhall 3 years ago

      God is my#1 and my hero

    • profile image

      Natalie  3 years ago

      I love Jesus and Zac Effron

    • profile image

      Dinger Dylan 3 years ago

      Luke is a loser

    • profile image

      Jamie Treadway 3 years ago

      Anyone can be a hero. And if Luke can anyone can.

    • profile image

      queen jordyn 3 years ago

      Jordyn loves heroes

    • profile image

      Baller  3 years ago

      Spurs for beating the heat in the nba finals :)

    • profile image

      Blake Martin 3 years ago

      Bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon

    • profile image

      Dinger Dylan 3 years ago

      Where is Thad Castle??????????????? #BMS #HeroInMyHeart

    • profile image

      Random 3 years ago


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      Marcy 3 years ago

      I'm my own hero

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      JC 3 years ago

      God is the bravest hero

    • profile image

      Random person 3 years ago

      Anyone can be a hero-except Dylan

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      Caroline Newsom 3 years ago

      I love super villians

    • profile image

      Jenna Dancy 3 years ago

      God is a lot of peoples hero.

    • profile image

      Dinger Dylan 3 years ago

      Emit Smith #BallIsLife

    • profile image

      Boobear 3 years ago


    • profile image

      Melody A Smith 3 years ago

      bay..... mine too!

    • profile image

      bay 3 years ago

      God is my hero.

    • profile image

      Pamela Mae Oliver 3 years ago

      Melody A. Smith...thank you for your comment. I agree that everyday heroes who give from their heart, just because that's what they're made of, are those who we owe our utmost respect and appreciation.

    • profile image

      Melody A Smith 3 years ago

      Many times the real heroes are often behind the scenes and do not get noticed. My hero would be someone who gives to others tirelessly, without needing attention for good deeds. They are the ones who perform from the heart and are genuine people.

    • profile image

      John 4 years ago

      My hero is a chaplain, a priest, a person at a funeral home and even a stranger who comforts you in a time of need.

    • Pamela Mae Oliver profile image

      Pamela Mae Oliver 4 years ago from Georgia

      Exactly! Thank you Loretta for your comments. I hope you have heroes and sheroes in your life!

    • profile image

      Loretta Castleber 4 years ago

      The word hero has been so misused in our current culture to the point it has lost the true meaning of the word.The true heroes are the men and women who give selflessly of their time and compassion and yes even their money to help someone else and in so doing expect nothing in return.If something is done expecting recognition or publicity or anything in return then it is not heroic ,it is self promoting.Thank God for the real, mainly unsung heroes.

    • Pamela Mae Oliver profile image

      Pamela Mae Oliver 4 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks Jeff! The everyday heroes, the person who stops on the side of the freeway and helps someone out of a burning car, or administering CPR, and then going on about their way because, "Anyone would have done as much," are supreme heroes because they don't even see themselves as a hero. The truth is, not many would, "Have done as much." Good Samaritans are few and far between.

    • Jeff Porter profile image

      Jeff Porter 4 years ago from Georgia

      Great post, Pamela, and great reply, cheaptrick.

      There are many examples of heroes; someone who pulls people from an overturned car, etc. However, societies view of someone who throws a ball and scores points as heroes is certainly off base, and does weaken the true definition of the word.

    • Pamela Mae Oliver profile image

      Pamela Mae Oliver 4 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you cheaptrick for your thoughts on this timely subject! With so much constant media coverage of celebrities, we seldom hear about the real heroes of the world. I thought it was about time too! I also bow to the man, or woman, who does the thankless work.

    • cheaptrick profile image

      cheaptrick 4 years ago from the bridge of sighs

      A Real hero is the guy who gets up at five every morning for thirty years and goes to a job he hates because he loves his wife and children.....and no one notices...and no one cares.I would bow to such a man.Thanks for this hub,it's about time.


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