Overheard on CNN.com: Does the uniform make the hero?
May 29th, 2012
06:43 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Does the uniform make the hero?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

When a soldier puts on his uniform for the first time, has he joined the ranks of our nation’s heroes? Or is he simply doing his job? MSNBC’s Chris Hayes chose Memorial Day to share his opinion that military service alone does not a hero make – an opinion he quickly rescinded and publicly apologized for amid a barrage of criticism.

While many thought the newsman was out of line, others supported him as simply exercising his rights to tell an uncomfortable truth.

Ed He should be fired! Not only is it insensitive but shows that he has no understanding of the news that he reports.

Michael So every person that dies is a hero? If that's a case, we need a new word to describe someone who does something heroic.

Obvious Guy Why should he be fired, Ed? I thought we had freedom of speech, which is exactly what he is exercising.

Alex No, he shouldn't. He told an uncomfortable truth. Not every soldier is a hero. Most are just soldiers, very few are heroes, and (thankfully) a very very few are villains. That distribution is representative of humans in general.
noun, plural he·roes
1. a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for brave deeds and noble qualities

ConLaw That's right, let's fire him for expressing his opinion. Might as well get rid of the First Amendment while we're at it, the whole right to free speech thing.

Some, including former servicemen, felt that a hero is defined by action in or out of the military.

Beadlesaz The word *hero* is greatly overused. Just serving in the military doesn't make one a hero. If so, what do you call the fellow (or woman) who lays down his life to help his comrades survive? Those who serve in the military do so at possibly great personal peril and the nation should be thankful. But service to one's country should be viewed as good citizenship. And, such service may take many forms – not everyone can or should serve in the military. Let's save the hero worship for those who truly deserve it.

– Retired Navy Captain

RootenTooten No real need for Chris to apologize. If anything maybe Memorial Day might not have been the best time to have such a discussion, but fundamentally he's right – the mere act of putting on a uniform, any uniform, doesn't make a Hero. To broaden that term to anyone who has put on a uniform only makes it meaningless. I've even seen some who post here making it seem like ONLY those in uniform could possibly be heroes, or even understand heroism or be qualified to comment on it – I hate to break it to these folks but plain old civilians save each others lives and sacrifice for others on a daily basis, all over the country and around the world. Are these folks not heroes because they aren't in the military ?

What's most telling about this to me is whenever someone who has performed an act of pure bravery and self sacrifice and saved lives or prevented disaster, military or civilian, is interviewed, the interviewer always asks a question along the lines of "So how does it feel to me/do you consider yourself a Hero ?" and the true Hero always replies "I'm not a hero. I just did what had to be done"

Some debated whether serving in the military is inherently heroic, or just a case of working citizens doing their job.

Phil Dolan The military has defined who is and who is not a hero in the military for centuries. Aren't they more qualified to define a military hero than some news guy who never served? The military rewards men/women who are designated heroes with one or more of several awards for valor.

For example, if you are looking at a soldier wearing a Purple Heart or other award of valor then you are looking at a hero. A real hero.

I served in Vietnam and I've looked in the faces of many heroes. Plus, there is nothing wrong with calling anyone who served a hero. But to say they are not heroes is an insult to everyone who did serve.

Liz Chris is right. For most recruits, joining the service is an economic choice. It's a job, it can pay for college, etc. Just doing what you're paid to do isn't heroic. I'll always whole-heartedly support the troops even though I believe war is wrong and the rationale given the young people is mostly lies. Many, many of them come back disillusioned, traumatized both physically and psychologically, and against war. But heroism is above and beyond what is expected, for the benefit of another.


soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. saywhat

    Certainly not.
    There have been heroes without uniform and villains in uniform.
    The criteria in the military is ' actions far and beyond the call of duty' to be recognized as acts of heroism.

    May 29, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. steve

    my parents told me to stay out of trouble, didn't yours? aren't those that wear the uniform look for trouble, and try to stop it? they are my heros.

    May 29, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. alanwillingham

    Volunteering your body, your time, your dedication, commitment, talents and your very life without reservation for whatever your country may require of you is a heroic act in itself. Whether you are ordered to peel potatoes or to the front line is unknown as the decision is made by others and beyond your control when you put on that uniform. That is heroic behavior

    May 29, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • JBlooze

      We have seen some very unheroic behavior of soldiers before (and it is a minority I believe and hope) and I don't think that will be the last. Not everyone signs up for altruistic reasons and they are not all heroes because they wear the uniform. They admit it. You should too.

      May 29, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JBlooze

    "MSNBC’s Chris Hayes chose Memorial Day to share his opinion that military service alone does not a hero make – an opinion he quickly rescinded and publicly apologized for amid a barrage of criticism." Really Sari Zeidler ? Know what context is? You reduced the long discussion of the use of the word hero among 5 thoughtful people to one person making a comment and rescinding it. 2 more sentences could have done it. You make it seem as if Mr. Hayes just issued a statement and was blasted for it. Not very journalistic of you. Try and "overhear" a little more on the subject before issuing such simplistic statements, OR if you know you misrepresented things, DON'T. Filed under: Jezus CNN don't try and sensationalize.

    May 29, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. ♚Mmmmm♛

    lol...oh my gosh...that sailor looks like he's wearing man boobs...

    May 30, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. fernace

    Cory Booker's actions were heroic when he saved his neighbor from her burning house, earlier this spring! The actions of the soldier who shot Afghan civilians, or the soldiers who urinated on dead people, are desp.icable! The cops who beat a homeless, mentally challenged man to death, were anything but "heroes"! A uniform doesn't make a hero, it's the person in the uniform who either is or isn't! Uniforms usually signifiy some form of service/duty & come w/strict standards! Since I'm an optimist, my take is that most people who wear it take the "uniform" seriously, but is that act in itself heroic? It's commendable, but it is a persons duty to live up to the standards of his/her "coat of arms"! Taking it above & beyond duty is heroic & soldiers often do! But so did Cory Booker, which goes to show that a "hero" is some1 who takes the action needed, because there is no time to spare! Thanking our soldiers will never go out of style, though, they deserve that!!

    May 30, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. saywhat

    @ fernace
    Well said.
    The discussion is about heroism not soldiering.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. ROBERTL Quetzalcoatl

    Patriotism is blind obedience
    to American Imperialism.

    June 3, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply

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