Page 30

AliveOct2016

What is a Hero? BOB F I SH The following article originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of ALIVE. Photo by Mardi Beck. I‘ve spent a great deal of my adult life trying to understand what a hero is and what makes them tick. As a Trustee of the USS Hornet Museum and the Associated Airtanker Pilots (i.e., aerial firefighters), I’m in daily contact with people who can legitimately be classified as heroes. I don’t know the formal psychological definition of the term—my perspective is more “when you see it, you know it.” Thanks to Hollywood, most younger Americans confuse “celebrities” with “heroes.” I spend quite a bit of time on the Hornet discussing this with kids. An actor in a space movie never leaves the safety of a sound studio and is well paid for entertaining a few theater goers. The Apollo astronaut being portrayed, however, trained for years before strapping himself into a Volkswagen size craft on top of a giant rocket with 7.5 million pounds of explosive thrust. He spent many days in a highly hazardous environment, earned a modest salary, yet accomplished goals set forth by his nation, to the betterment of all mankind. It’s a pet peeve of mine when someone mixes them up. But that doesn’t mean actors can’t be heroes. In the summer of 2001, I was in Jackson Hole, WY when the Green Knoll wildfire broke out. I watched from an adjacent mountain as the fire spread rapidly. Amidst all the smoke, flying debris and tricky winds, with airtankers and TV helicopters buzzing around, there was one civilian helicopter A L I V E E A S T B 30 A Y o c t o b e r 2 0 1 6 that repeatedly landed near homes in the area of the flames, unloaded supplies and evacuated trapped citizens and pets. It flew between the fire scene and the airport several times. The next day I learned the helicopter was flown by Harrison Ford. He was in the right place at the right time, with both the means and the desire to effect a meaningful change of destiny for citizens in his community. He’s a hero to me. Let me share what little I’ve learned about what makes them tick. Every Medal of Honor winner has told me “I was just doing my job” or “I just wanted to save my buddy’s life.” The fact that someone else saw it, wrote up a decoration and a medal was awarded is all secondary in the grand scheme of things. I know for a personal fact that Neil Armstrong does not claim his walk on the moon to be heroic. He views himself as an explorer, pushing the edge of the known world to new heights, much as Charles Lindbergh did when he flew his daring solo mission across the Atlantic in 1927. Over 400,000 civilian, military and government personnel assisted this noble scientific cause and he is the first to note they made his historic walk possible. Few people know about his more heroic exploits. During a combat mission in the Korean War, his Navy jet was seriously damaged attacking a bridge deep in enemy territory, but he skillfully nursed it back into friendlier skies so he


AliveOct2016
To see the actual publication please follow the link above