In our world today there is this word, “Hero”. It’s used a lot – maybe too much. Normally when we hear the word, “hero”, we think of someone doing something so amazing that there are parades and awards presented in their honor. But what does it really mean to be a hero? And can anyone be a hero? Read this story of one man, one true hero, and just what it means to be a real hero.
Noah Webster, the publisher of the first Webster’s Dictionary, knew a lot about heroes – he was one himself. He was a great patriot. He fought in the American Revolution, helped us win our independence as a nation, and later he helped write our U.S. Constitution. Here’s what Noah Webster in his Dictionary says about heroes. He says: “A hero is someone who, first, shows much bravery, and, second, someone who performs great deeds”. Now these two parts of the definition are no surprise, but listen to the last part. “Third,” Webster says, “A hero is someone who”, get this, “lives a life of high and noble qualities”. So, you see, being a true hero is not just about crawling into a burning building, or facing down an armed robber, or even fighting a war. Being a true hero is about conducting yourself in such a way, with such a high character, that people want to follow your example, to be like you.
Now, some of the most powerful stories I have ever read are stories where a person stands strong, shows unbelievable courage, and conducts himself in such a way that others want to follow. Here’s such a story. In 1864, during one terrible battle in our Civil War, a Union Army flag bearer, by the name of Leopold Karpeles, distinguished himself by an incredible act of bravery, an act so brave it won him the Medal of Honor. The date was May 6, 1864, and the two armies, North and South, were fighting near the town of Wilderness, Virginia. Eyewitnesses tell us that the Union Army was being slaughtered in that battle, and the Union soldiers began to run. Now, Sergeant Karpeles could have run with them, but as the one who carried the flag, his job was to rally the soldiers. And the enemy knew that if they could seriously wound or kill the flag bearer, the troops would not have the flag to rally around. But, while carrying no weapon, only carrying that flag, Karpeles realized that he must act, regardless of the danger; so, he found the highest spot where he could stand, putting him clearly in the line of fire, and without any thought for his own safety, he began to wave that flag shouting, “For God’s sake boys, don't forget your colors”. And the retreating soldiers, seeing him standing there in the direct line of fire, waving that flag, amazingly, they all stopped and turned from their retreat and they fought. And the battle was saved. Flag bearer, Leopold Karpeles, knew his job and stood up – Regardless of the danger, he stood up.
So, remember Webster’s definition of a hero: “A hero is someone who: • first, shows much bravery • second, performs great deeds, but most important, a hero is someone who • lives a life of high and noble qualities”. And when you do that - people will follow. So, just what is the message today? An exciting thought - anyone can be a hero – each of us must be heroes. Our nation needs more heroes - real heroes. So, go out today and be somebody’s hero. Live your life in such a way that people seek you as their example. Leopold Karpeles did it and so can you.