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Jonathan Kraut: Heroes or vicitms?

Posted: March 5, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 5, 2013 2:00 a.m.

I am having a problem with associating the term "hero" with every law-enforcement officer and government employee who has been harmed or died on duty.

Taxpayer money is funding the payroll and benefits of those willing and able to serve on the public’s behalf. But the simple fact of being injured and killed while an employee and performing prescribed work, whether it be in the armed forces, law enforcement, or emergency services, does not only alone qualify one as a "hero."

The recent deadly rampage of former cop and psycho killer Christopher Dorner has given renewed opportunity to apply the term "hero" to anyone who stood in Dorner’s path.

Exalting those that simply were shot by Dorner diminishes the value we bestow on true heroes and simplistically obscures "victim" and "hero" into one and the same.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a hero as: "A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life."

I consider a hero someone voluntarily who risks or dedicates one’s self to the support and aid of those in need or strives to accomplish a noble act above and beyond what is expected or required.

To me, police officers who are shot in their patrol car while stopped at a red light are not heroes simply because they were shot.

This does not mean they were not heroic for some other deed, but being a victim alone, as in this instance, offers no example of any heroic trait.

I see no heroism in an Air Force pilot who is shot down over enemy territory and then kept as a prisoner of war, as was Senator John McCain. There are many war heroes, but being shot down, captured, and tortured makes McCain simply a casualty of the Vietnam War.

To me there is no heroism about two sheriff’s deputies who were ambushed by Dorner in the Big Bear area because in their search for Dorner they were shot.

It was their job and paid obligation, treacherous and dangerous as their assignment was, to investigate a cabin in which Dorner happened to be hiding. Just being the random victim of a nutcase in itself is not heroic.

Lt. Brian Murphy, critically injured in a mass shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, last August to me is a hero. Responding to reports of gunshots at the temple, Lt. Murphy was shot by a deranged gunman as he exited his patrol car.

Being initially shot was not what makes Lt. Murphy as hero. It was his choice once he was down to keep moving and drawing additional bullets (he was ultimately shot 15 times and survived) from the gunman and buying time for other officers to arrive — that’s what makes him a hero.

The selfless and brave efforts in 2009 of Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer — who chose to risk his life to evacuate not just one but five truckloads of wounded Afghan and American soldiers while surrounded and under intense enemy fire — makes Sgt.Meyer a hero.

Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha motivated and rallied his demoralized unit and then lead counter-attacks against hundreds of Taliban fighters at Combat Outpost Keating, Afghanistan, in 2009.

Although completely surrounded, because of the aggressive acts and leadership exhibited by SSG Romesha, 20 of those 28 soldiers survived by confusing the enemy, which forced the Taliban to regroup, permitting the time needed for rescue. SSG Romesha is a hero.

The countless volunteers of the SCV Bridge to Home Homeless Shelter, without pay or consideration for themselves, who offer care and sustenance to our homeless — they are heroes.

The hundreds of school children and their parents who choose to raise and donate funds to the less fortunate, whom they will never meet, are heroes.

Faith volunteers who feed the hungry, clothe the shivering, shelter the abandoned, and nurture empty spirits are heroes.

Regardless of the degree of danger one is in, it is rising to meet the needs of others or pursuing a noble calling, and not being an unlucky and a random victim, that for me defines the honor "hero."

Jonathan Kraut serves in the Democratic Party of the SCV, on the SCV Human Relations Forum, and on the SCV Interfaith Council. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or other organizations. Democratic Voices appears Tuesdays in The Signal.


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