Why is it so hard to define a hero?

Good Evening All,

As some of you know I am currently pursuing a Bachelors’ Degree. Thus I get to enjoy the fun of English Comp. When I wrote this essay I realized it had some value for what we are as Virginia Oath Keepers.


Hope you all enjoy!


Throughout recorded history; one word has been harder to define than any other; hero. It is likely that statement causes the reader to pause and question its validity. That is as intended, as a hero has been defined numerous times. Webster defines a hero as, “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 (Merriam-Webster, 1999, p. 543)” Despite that definition a hero is defined in the heart of those in need of a hero.

What does that mean? Hector in the Iliad was certainly a hero; Homer wrote the perfect illustrious warrior hero. The founding fathers of the United States were certainly heroes who showed great courage. Cal Ripken Jr; who holds a perhaps unbreakable sports record and has donated many millions of hours and dollars to literacy campaigns is admired for both his achievement and nobility. What characteristic do these examples share; they provided a spark when one was greatly needed.

A hero is different to each and every person. A great example of this is who I have held as heroes in my life. When I was young my hero was Cal Ripken Jr, I idolized everything about him and had no greater desire then to emulate him when I played baseball. My hero was defined on the basis that I was a child and needed a hero to motivate me. This lasted through my early high school years; when my focus shifted from sports to service. At that point I would have told anyone that asked my hero were firefighters and paramedics; as a young fire explorer you look up to these brave men and women who are willing to risk their lives for others. Doing so motivates you to push yourself further and learn more then you thought possible so that one day you can count yourself amongst them. In my later high school years I decided to pursue military service, at that point I defined myself by a desire to serve at the highest levels of our military. Thus I worked out and trained constantly because to serve as those before me had that is what I needed to do.

In each case, my hero of the time provided a needed spark. This spark motivated me to achieve more than many believed I was capable of. The hero was not always the fastest, strongest smartest or even bravest. The hero was the one that my heart and mind sought out to show me the way to succeed. So what is the actual definition of a hero?

A hero is in your heart, not in a dictionary, or epic. A hero is the one who when most needed will provide a light that guides and motivates others to be better then they themselves believe possible. The one who through no personal ambition can inspire others to fill all of their ambitions. The one who may be most likely to tell you they are just trying to succeed, will be the one most likely to guide your success.