Monday, November 12, 2007

What makes a hero

Yesterday was Veteran's Day.
My grandfather fought in WWI, got gassed, and was given 6 months to live. He died in 1970 at age 70.
My father fought in WWII. My mother was in the WACS in WWII.

updated 2:54 p.m. ET, Mon., Nov. 12, 2007
“We often think of the gung-ho, John Wayne ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ kind of hero driven to combat,” said researcher Brian Wansink of Cornell University. “But there’s a whole lot of these heroes that are much more along the lines of that Captain Miller character Tom Hanks played in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ — the reluctant high school English teacher.”

Unsurprisingly, veterans who had been awarded medals tended to rate themselves higher for qualities like leadership, adventurousness and adaptability. Results became more intriguing when researchers divided medal earners into two groups: those who enlisted (“eager heroes”) and those who were drafted (“reluctant heroes”). The reluctant heroes scored higher than any other group in selflessness and working well with others.

The study suggests that quiet heroes rely on a deep sense of duty and esprit de corps as opposed to derring-do. That sentiment was echoed by several of the medal-earning veterans interviewed separately for this story.

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