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What is a Hero?

“A hero is somebody who is selfless, who is generous in spirit, who just tries to give back as much as possible and help people. A hero to me is someone who saves people and who really deeply cares,”(Debi Mazar). When someone hears the word ‘hero’, they often think of a cape- clad superhero soaring through the skies, but there are real life heroes all around us.
William Kyle Carpenter was just 21 years old when he made an incredible decision. In 2010, Carpenter was a member of the Marines and was based in Afghanistan. Suddenly, a grenade was thrown on a rooftop that Carpenter and his group were based on. Carpenter, in a moment of true bravery, threw himself onto the grenade. Carpenter lost most of his teeth, his right eye, shattered his jaw, and broke his arm in a number of places. His harrowing act of bravery saved the life of his friend and fellow army men. Carpenter was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions and is widely regarded as a true American hero. America has always tried to recognize the heroes among us, but many heroes don’t wear badges or even capes.
On May 3, 1980, Cari Lightner was walking to a church carnival when she was struck by a drunk driver. She died shortly after the incident occurred and was survived by her mother Candy Lightner. Lightner was distraught, but decided to use her daughter’s death to enact change. Just four days after her daughter’s death, Lightner started a grassroots organization to advocate for stiffer penalties for drunk driving. The organization was called MADD, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She became an avid activist whose resolve did not fade. Her group had many successes, including getting the legal drinking age raised to 21. It is unknown how many lives Candy Lightner has saved over the years. Her strength has likely saved hundreds of lives that would have been taken by drunk drivers. This ambition makes her a hero.
Last, but certainly not least, there is Jane Addams. If you were to walk into a classroom and ask who Susan B. Anthony or even Rosa Parks was, you’d get a pretty good response, but if you were to ask about Jane Addams, you probably wouldn’t get an answer. Jane Addams is definitely one of my personal heroes. She was a social reformer, pacifist, and feminist during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Addams opened one of the first settlements in both the United States and North America. Hull House, Addams’s settlement, provided services for the immigrant and poor population living in the Chicago area. Over the years, the organization grew to include more than 10 buildings and extended its services to include child care, educational courses, an art gallery, a public kitchen, and several other social programs. Outside of her work as a prominent social reformer, Addams was a deeply committed pacifist and peace activist. She gave lectures on peace and became chair of the Women’s Peace Party. Then in 1915, Addams attended the International Congress of Women at The Hague in the Netherlands along with Emily Greene Balch and Alice Hamilton. These three women worked together on a special report, Women at The Hague: The International Congress of Women and Its Results, which was published that same year. As part of her commitment to finding an end to war, Addams served as president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom from 1919 to 1929. For her efforts, she shared the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize with Nicholas Murray Butler, an educator and presidential advisor. Addams died shortly after this in 1935 due to health issues. She is remembered as a pioneer and trailblazer for her amazing work. Without her and women like her, we may never have gained suffrage or maintained some of our basic human rights. She, along with the others in this article, deserve to be regarded as heroes.
All of these people are heroes. They all are extremely selfless and have saved the lives of others. However, while all of these people are truly incredible and deserve to have their stories told, there are so many others out there that receive no recognition whatsoever. There are people everywhere that save and change the lives of others for the better. These people don’t have books or even articles written about them, but that doesn’t make them any less of a hero. I think that Michael Israel says it perfectly when he says, “There is a hero built in all of us.”

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