1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child.
Also, a sandwich.
When I lived in New Jersey last year, my father flew up to visit me. Among other things, I drove him to a national park where the Continental Army under George Washington camped for the winters of 1777, and 1778-79. While driving there, we discussed the difficulties facing those men, including lack of pay, food, adequate clothing, and constant fears of how their families back home were faring without them.
"Now that was sacrifice," said my father, pointing his finger for emphasis.
We agreed that those men gave up so much, and that the military today lives a comparatively easy life. In addition to the ease of communication with loved ones, soldiers today get to come home much sooner than they would have in the Rev War, Civil War, or even both World Wars.
Oh, and they get pay and benefits.
I mentioned how I couldn't believe how everyone who signs up for the military these days is considered a "hero," regardless of what they actually do. Boy, did my dad get worked up over that one.
"The term 'hero' is completely overused! Some guy in the army who cooks is now considered a 'hero' for his country. It is unfair to those who really do put their life in danger, or even lose their life, for their fellows in arms."
I couldn't have said it better. Just because some guy holds a gun in Iraq doesn't mean he is a hero. Simply shooting an enemy doesn't make anyone a hero (though that could be categorized under "brave").
Falling on a grenade preserve the life of one's friends DOES a hero make.
My father gets especially irritated because his father earned a Silver Star for heroism, having crashed his plane behind enemy lines in WWII, but first getting as many of his men out as possible. (The other man who remained on board with him died shortly after the crash. Grandpa doesn't talk about that much.)
He also got upset about the "Friday Night Heros" show. Playing football doesn't qualify a person for "hero" status.
Screw it - we're ALL heroes.
Sadly, it seems to make the term less special for the valiant people who truly deserve the title.